Whatever the reasons may be, ending a marriage is often a difficult process, both emotionally and legally. Marriages typically end through a divorce from your spouse, but on occasion, through annulment. While members of the military follow the same procedures for divorces, additional considerations like deployment and home residency can make the process much more complicated.
If you are preparing for a divorce, legal separation, or annulment, you deserve an attorney who knows your circumstances, understands your story, and has the experience and know-how to guide you through the process.
The most frequent way to end a marriage is through a divorce. In some limited situations, there are grounds for an annulment.
What is a “divorce”?
At the end of an absolute divorce proceeding, the Court enters an order ending the marriage. There is a discovery phase, which allows both sides to ask and provide relevant information to the other side. If the case is tried, a judge or magistrate hears the evidence and makes decisions about issues like child custody, alimony, child support, and division of assets. Alternatively, the parties can come to an agreement on the issues and enter into a separation agreement. The terms are then finalized in an absolute divorce decree.
There are two categories of grounds, one of which must be alleged in a complaint for divorce: no-fault, in which one spouse files stating that the parties have been apart for a lengthy period (normally at least 12 months) or the parties have resolved all issues (aka "Mutual Consent Divorce"), and fault-based, in which one spouse can file for divorce based on the other spouse's actions (frequently based on adultery, desertion, or excessive vicious conduct, etc). All states offer fault-based divorces, while most states offer grounds for no-fault divorces based on residency requirements. For example, Maryland provides for a divorce to be entered based on the no-fault grounds of “mutual consent.”
What is an “annulment”?
The legal grounds for an Annulment (not to be confused with a religious annulment) is a less frequent way to end a marriage. The grounds for dissolution are very specific and limited. An annulment is a decree that a marriage is null and void, as the marriage is considered to be invalid. While a divorce ends a legally valid marriage, an annulment treats the marriage as if it never existed.
Grounds for an annulment vary between states, but they are typically based on one of the following criteria:
- The spouses are related (Incest)
- One or both of the spouses were already married (Bigamy)
- One or both of the spouses married under force, fraud, or without knowing what they were doing (due to intoxication or mental incapacity)
How does the process differ for members of the military?
For military members, the process of ending a marriage can be more difficult. Considerations like residency and deployment can cause trouble in simply knowing where to file for divorce in the first place. For many, the Service members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) protects active duty military members' legal rights. Under SCRA, a service member can obtain a “stay” or postponement of a court date until he or she can attend and is also granted certain protections from default judgments (or other court complications) if they fail to appear at trial because of military duty.
At Patriots Law Group, we're here to help. We have represented many clients, both military and civilian, in every facet of family law. Our experience helping clients through divorce proceedings has alleviated many of the pressures that impact families during such difficult times. We understand your circumstances, and will help you reach the best resolution possible.
If you are a civilian or military member starting the process of ending your marriage, you deserve someone in your corner who understands every aspect of the process. We are the attorneys for you. Give us a call today at 301-952-9000.
DISCLAIMER: The information above is for general informational purposes only. No attorney-client relationship is intended or created by this information. Each individual situation is different and therefore a formal in-person consultation is necessary before any specific advice may be relied upon as appropriate and accurate for a given situation. Please call Patriots Law Group at 301-952-9000 to set up a consultation if you wish to obtain specific legal advice you may rely upon. We serve clients anywhere in the world, with in-person consultations available at our Suitland, MD office — right next to Andrews Air Force Base — for clients in Maryland and Virginia