Alternatives to Divorce

All marriages have their ups and downs. When problems arise that can’t be solved, some couples turn to divorce. This is one solution to marital difficulties, but not the only one. Other actions to consider include legal separation, annulment, dissolution, and marriage counseling.

Legal Separation

When a couple decides to obtain a legal separation, they must go through a process similar to that of a divorce, filing the separation with a court and receiving a decree. They remain legally married; however, they must follow the court orders.

During a legal separation, both spouses live in separate homes, and must abide by their court order. All of the property owned by the couple and all debt is divided in a legal separation. They can proceed with their lives as if they were divorced, however, they cannot remarry. A divorce formally ends a marriage, whereas a legal separation does not.

There are four common reasons couples use the legal separation option:

  1. To allow one spouse to remain on the health insurance of the other.
  2. If the parties are close to having been married 10 years, and one spouse wants to receive federal benefits under the other person’s social security number.
  3. If they have not lived in Ohio for six months, and therefore cannot file for divorce yet. Legal separations can be filed before then.
  4. Religious beliefs.

There is no time period set for a legal separation. It can last for as long or as short a time as the couple wishes.


When a marriage is annulled, it makes it as if the marriage never happened. Much like a divorce, an annulment cannot be obtained unless there are grounds for one. Annulments are usually only available if the marriage is of a very short duration, unless grounds for annulment are discovered at a later time.

If any of the following circumstances existed at the time the marriage took place, annulment may be an option.

  1. One of the parties is under the legal marrying age for the state in which they were married.
  2. One of the parties was previously married, his or her spouse is still living, and the marriage between them was never terminated.
  3. One party was declared mentally incompetent.
  4. One party’s consent was obtained by fraud or force.
  5. The marriage was never consummated.

When an annulment is given, the court will decree that the marriage is null and void. This is unlike divorce or dissolution, in which the marriage is ended.


Dissolution dissolves a marriage and is granted when both spouses agree on all the terms of the termination. The terms of the dissolution are spelled out in a separation agreement, which is signed by both parties. This agreement must be filed with the court, along with the petition for dissolution. Both parties must agree ahead of time on all of the terms in the separation agreement. Both parties must appear at the hearing and both have to state they want to end the marriage. Dissolutions are usually quicker and may be less expensive than divorces.

Marriage Counseling

Marriage counseling is counseling for couples who wish to improve their relationship. It can be used as a means to address and resolve problems such as communication issues, conflicts, financial issues, and adultery. In most cases, marriage counseling is done when both parties have some hope to maintain their marriage.


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