What's the Difference Between an Annulment and a Divorce?

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What Is an Annulment?

An annulment is the act of ending a marriage that was invalid from the beginning. A marriage can be considered invalid due to:

Getting an annulment means that the marriage basically never happened. Due to this reason, some people want to get an annulment because of religious reasons, or they simply believe there is a stigma connected to divorce.

What Is a Divorce?

Getting a divorce means that the court recognizes your marriage and that it is legally coming to an end. Nowadays, many people file for divorce, also known as dissolution, because it no longer carries a social stigma. Divorces are divided into two categories: fault or no fault divorce.

Fault Divorce: a fault divorce means that one spouse did something wrong and the court should grant a divorce. Fault divorces are not common and most states do not classify a divorce as fault. However, states that do recognize fault divorces, will grant a divorce because of:

No Fault Divorce: a no fault divorce is one where the filing spouse does not have to prove fault. To get a no fault divorce, all a spouse needs to do is give the court a reason. A spouse that files for a divorce does not need the consent of the other spouse. The most common being “irreconcilable differences.” Every state recognizes no fault divorces, but some states require the spouses to live separately for a period of time.

How Is Property Treated?

Getting an annulment or a divorce is a personal preference for every individual. Spouses have to split assets and property when ending their marriage. Due to the complex family and property laws, such as community property, the courts handle annulment and divorce assets differently.

Annulment: the court will try to trace the asset or property back to the spouse that purchased it. If the annulment happened after a long period of time, the court may use its discretion and divide the asset as fairly as possible.

Divorce: splitting assets and property during a divorce is a natural part of the process. Depending on which state you get a divorce in, you may have to divide your assets through community property laws or equitable distribution laws.

Is Child Custody Treated Differently?

Getting an annulment or a divorce will not affect the legitimacy of your children. Parental rights and duties are not affected if you get an annulment or a divorce. Spouses will still go through the regular processes for:

Should I Get an Attorney for My Divorce or Annulment?

Yes. Getting a divorce or an annulment can be a complicated and stressful time in your life. An experienced family law attorney can represent you in court and help protect your rights.

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Last Modified: 05-07-2015 10:24 AM PDT

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