Before you issue your divorce petition, it’s worthwhile to remember that divorce isn’t the only way of ending a marriage.
Alternative ways of ending your marriage include nullity or judicial separation. Whether these are options for you will largely depend on your circumstances.
You can read a bit more about them below and decide if they might be applicable to your situation.
This is similar to divorce, but you technically remain spouses in the eyes of the law.
One situation where judicial separation could be preferable might be where one party is opposed to the divorce (for example, on religious grounds).
Judicial Separation relies on the same facts as divorce, but the court does not have to find that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
The marriage does not end legally, but there is no longer an obligation to cohabit.
So there may well be situations where a spouse would be financially better off with a judicial separation rather than a full divorce.
You cannot remarry while judicially separated, but there is nothing stopping you from presenting a petition for divorce at a later point.
The law on judicial separation can be found in Arts 19 – 20 of the Matrimonial Causes (NI) Order 1978.
Nullity treats your marriage as if there were legal flaws with it from the start – meaning that it is therefore only reasonable that it could be brought to an end.
The main advantages of nullity over divorce is that you do not have to wait for 2 years before commencing proceedings – but nullity is only available in strict circumstances.
The first category of circumstances – where nullity is an option – is when your marriage was void. This means that is was never a valid marriage in the first place.
Situations where this would apply would be in cases of:
The second category of circumstances is where the marriage is voidable.
A voidable marriage is one that has legal flaws, but can exist until one spouse applies to have it made void, and a decree is issued to that effect.
Situations where a marriage could be voidable include when:
The law of Nullity can be found in Arts 13-18 of the Matrimonial Causes (NI) Order 1978.
An annulment won’t necessarily be granted in every situation – you can find some of the bars to nullity here.
Note that if you are considering an annulment, you should apply for it within three years from the date of the marriage.
Depending on your individual situation, judicial separation and nullity can be effective alternatives to divorce. If you feel that either could be an option for you, a divorce solicitor would be able to advise you in greater depth as to whether you might be eligible.
They are certainly options that are worth exploring before you commence your divorce proceedings.