What is the Difference Between An Annulment and a Divorce?

What is the difference between an annulment and a divorce?

The basic difference between an annulment and a divorce is that a divorce ends the marriage contract, while an annulment voids the original contract, making it as if the marriage never happened. Another difference is that the grounds for divorce are far more general, while the grounds for annulment are more specific.

In order to get an annulment, a spouse must prove that the marriage contract was invalid from the beginning. Many people seek to get an annulment out of religious convictions. Some grounds for annulment are as follows:

– Either spouse not legally of age to marry
– The spouses are close relatives
– Either spouse was forced through physical physical means or mental incapacity
– Either spouse was not sober
– Either spouse was already married or in a domestic partnership

Another characteristic of an annulment is that one spouse is usually on the spot for wrongdoing, whereas many states now allow no-fault divorce, which does not require fault to be proven on either party. Grounds for annulment differ on a state by state basis, with some states granting it to withheld information before marriage or lack of consummation. It is best to contact an attorney for accurate information.

In states with no-fault divorce, divorce may be granted for irreconcilable differences, loss of affection and irremediable breakdown of the relationship. Either spouse can file for the divorce without having to prove the fault of the other spouse.

States that allow fault-based divorce have several grounds for dissolution based on the other spouse’s behavior. Some reasons could be adultery, abandonment, abuse or substance abuse. The court’s decisions on child support and spousal support can depend on proving the other spouse’s guilt in these behaviors.

Although neither option expressly requires a lawyer to proceed, it is highly recommended so that clients can know their options and know where they stand. The grounds for annulment especially are very specific and vary across states and situations. If a couple does not have grounds for annulment, then the only options are divorce or legal separation. However, legal separation does not permanently dissolve the marriage.

Kelly Peterson
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Experienced Divorce Lawyer Kelly Peterson handles child custody, visitation, paternity, grandparent rights and mediation cases.

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*Child Welfare Law Specialist Nat’l Assoc. of Counsel for Children