An annulment, just like a divorce, dissolves a marriage. However, the difference is that an annulment treats the marriage as though it never happened in the first place. Traditionally, not only did divorce carry with it a type of stigma, it also made remarriage in a church difficult for certain religions. An annulment was a solution for some people to avoid the stigma and make remarrying in a church easier.

In order for a civil annulment to be granted by the state, at least one of the following must be present:

  • Fraud or Misrepresentation: One spouse lied about or concealed something serious, such as the inability to have children, felony convictions, or a sexually transmitted disease.
  • Bigamy: One spouse was legally married to another person at the time of the new, alleged marriage.
  • Incest: State law deems the marriage illegal since the spouses are too closely related.
  • Lack of Consent: Both spouses must be of sound mind and they must voluntarily consent to the marriage. Each spouse must also be of legal age to marry.

The Roman Catholic Church, and some other religions, may grant a religious annulment after the couple has gone through a civil divorce. This would allow either individual to remarry in the church, and is based on grounds that are different than those required for a civil annulment.

What is Divorce?

Divorce is the dissolution of a marriage that the court recognized as a legal union. Divorce proceedings are commonplace, and no longer carry the stigma they once did. The court separates divorce into two categories: fault or no fault divorce.

Fault Divorce: As the term suggests, a “fault divorce” implies that one spouse wronged the other in some way, and therefore, the divorce should be granted. States vary on fault divorce laws, and many do not recognize this type of divorce. In states that do, a fault divorce may be granted in cases of:

In any case, the party filing for the divorce must be able to prove that their spouse has acted in some way to justify the end of the union.

No Fault Divorce: In a no fault divorce, the filing spouse does not need to prove fault. All the court needs to grant the divorce is a reason for the request. The most common reason is “irreconcilable differences” and whoever filed for the divorce does not need consent from their spouse. All states recognize no fault divorce, though some states may require that the couple live separately for a certain amount of time before granting the divorce.

How is Property Treated?

Annulments usually take place shortly after the marriage, which typically means the court will trace the assets back to the spouse who was the original owner. In annulments that take place after a substantial amount of time has passed, the court will do its best to divide the assets fairly.

In a divorce, the splitting of assets is standard procedure. In some states, assets may have to be divided throughout community property laws or equitable distribution laws.

Is Child Custody Treated Differently?

Child custody is treated the same across the board. Whether you seek an annulment or a divorce, you will be subject to the same processes required for child custody, visitation rights, and child support.

Should I Get an Attorney for My Divorce or Annulment?

If you wish to divorce your spouse or are seeking an annulment, you should speak with a divorce lawyer as soon as possible. Annulments and divorce proceedings can be complex and taxing on both your emotions and your bank account. An experienced lawyer will be able to protect your rights and represent your best interests in court.