Family Law & Criminal Defense Attorney

What Is the Difference Between Annulment & Divorce?

In most cases, when we think about how to end a marriage, the first thing to come to mind is divorce. However, another way to end a marriage is an annulment. Annulments are a legal way to cancel a marriage. Canceling the marriage makes it so that from a legal perspective, the marriage never happened.

How Do You Get an Annulment?

In some cases, the process for securing an annulment can be more complex than getting divorced. To get an annulment, a spouse must prove to the court that they have grounds for nullifying their marriage. Grounds for an annulment include:

  • Illegal Marriages – This most commonly involves incestuous marriages, which are marriages where the parties involved have a familial relationship prior to the marriage. Examples would be cousins or siblings marry each other.
  • Marriage to a Minor – At the time of the marriage, one or both persons involved in a marriage were not of legal age to get married without court approval and/or parental consent. Age of marital consent varies from state to state.
  • Forced Consent – A person only got married because they were threatened in some way or got married while under duress.
  • Bigamy – This is when a person who is already legally married to someone gets married to someone else, which is illegal.
  • Unconsummated Marriage – This involves the couple never being able to have sex during the marriage due to impotency or because they are physically incapable of having sexual intercourse for some reason.
  • Mental Illness – If either spouse was emotionally disturbed or mentally ill at the time of the marriage, it may be grounds for an annulment.
  • Mental Incapacitation – If one or both people in a marriage were mentally incapacitated at the time they got married, it may be grounds for an annulment. In this case, mental incapacitation can include someone who is mentally disabled or a person who is unable to make sound decisions because they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Fraud – This involves someone being tricked into getting married. Fraud can be because the person they married lied to them or misrepresented themselves in some way to convince them to agree to marriage. In some instances, that could mean one spouse hid some major issue from the other until after they were married. Examples of possible issues that a person could conceal that could be considered fraud include hiding a drug or alcohol problem, child, serious illness, or criminal record.

If the spouse pursuing an annulment can prove they have grounds for seeking to annul their marriage, the court will most likely grant their annulment.

Annulment vs. Divorce: How Are They Different?

Annulments have some similarities to divorce, but overall, they are more different than they are similar. The differences between annulment and divorce include the following:

  • Existence – When a couple gets a divorce, they acknowledge that the marriage existed and that they chose to legally end it. Annulment means that one or both persons involved in the marriage believe that it was invalid in some way and that it must be erased from legal record.
  • Grounds – For a court to grant an annulment, a legal reason for why the marriage should be annulled must be proven before the court will grant the annulment. For example, if someone wants a marriage annulled because of bigamy, they must prove that the person they married was already married to someone else when they got married. This may involve producing the marriage certificates from both marriages and/or having the person’s other spouse testify as a witness. Divorces don’t always require grounds to be granted. In some states, there’s what’s known as no-fault divorce. No-fault divorces mean the spouse who is seeking the divorce does not have to prove fault for the divorce to be granted. In many cases, “irreconcilable differences” is listed as the reason for a no-fault divorce.
  • Timing – The timing of an annulment often matters more than people realize. Laws regarding annulment timing vary from state to state. In some states, an annulment won’t be granted if the parties have been married for too long. Divorces can generally happen at any point in a legal marriage.
  • Alimony and Division of Property – Alimony and property division are staples of divorce proceedings. However, because annulment cancels a marriage, things such as marital property and spousal support aren’t applicable. You can’t be required to pay your ex-spouse alimony if legally you were never married. And you cannot be forced to split property and income you acquired during the marriage if the marriage never existed.
  • Marital Status – After a divorce, people often list their marital status as divorced. Following an annulment, people generally list their marital status as unmarried or single.

Even though annulment erases legal records regarding a marriage, any children that the couple had together while married are still considered their kids as a couple. This means issues such as child custody and child support do apply even in the case of an annulment.

Schedule a Free Consultation with an Experienced Family Law Attorney

When a couple reaches the point where they are ready to end their marriage, getting it taken care of quickly, fairly, and efficiently are generally the top priorities. However, in some cases, ensuring a marriage is erased from legal record is just as much of a priority.

At The Law Office of Derek S. Ritchie, PLLC, we understand the appeal of annulments. By the time you’ve reach your breaking point with your spouse, you may feel like it’s worth it to wipe all record of your marriage from existence, and under certain circumstances, you’d be right. However, in most cases, what’s more important is getting that marriage over and done with as soon as possible, so that you can start on the path to a brighter tomorrow. Our experienced legal team has helped many people end an unhappy marriage and find their way to better future, and we can help you too.

To learn more about how we’ve helped clients with a wide range of family law matters, check out our client reviews.

To schedule a free and confidential no-obligation consultation to discuss your situation with an experienced family law attorney, give us a call at (210) 761-4943 or contact us online.

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