Welcome to the Annulment department of Divorce and FamilyLawService Center. Here we will discuss what annulment means and when it is an option for ending a marriage. We will talk about what makes a marriage void under the law. Lastly, we will discuss how annulment and divorce differ and in what ways they are the same.
What is annulment?
At the root of an annulment is the fact that, for reasons we will discuss below, the marriage was invalid in the first place. Because the marriage was never legally valid, an annulment wipes the marriage from the record as if the marriage never took place. On the other hand, divorce is the legal action that ends a legal and valid marriage. There are special cases when custody and property need to be divided in an annulment, but happens rarely.
Is the marriage eligible for annulment?
There are laws that govern marriage. If the marriage breaks one of those laws it is eligible for annulment. In addition, there may be bit of gray area, in some instances, as to whether or not the marriage is valid. Avoidable marriage involves fraud, misrepresentation, concealment, lack of consent, or an inability or refusal to consummate the marriage. Typically annulments occur within days, weeks, or months of the marriage but more rarely, depending on the circumstances, annulments can occur much later.
The courts need proof to establish the marriage is invalid. A marriage is void if the marriage is entered into while married to another (bigamy) or when it is entered into with a relative (incest). If the marriage is entered into under duress or by force, the marriage is void. If the marriage is entered into while under the influence of drugs/alcohol to the extent that the spouse(s) is unaware of the ramifications of their actions or the marriage was performed under false pretenses as in a mock wedding, the marriage may be voidable. If the spouse(s) is incapable of giving legal consent as in insanity, temporary insanity, mental handicap, or mental illness; grounds for annulment may be established. If information arises in the marriage that was not known prior to the marriage such as conviction of a felony, jail time, or drug/alcohol/sex addiction there may be grounds for an annulment. Refusal or inability (impotence) to consummate the marriage may establish reason for annulment. A very common reason for considering an annulment is one spouse wants children and one does not. Because same sex marriage is not legal in all but a few states, those marriages are also candidates for annulment.
Divorce vs. Annulment
Annulment and divorce have some similarities and some major differences. Just as in divorce, in some annulment case, a spouse may receive property and support. Similarly, the children from the marriage are considered legitimate after both divorce and annulment. An annulment and a divorce are both court orders ending the marriage. The biggest difference is an annulment order removes the marriage from the record as if it never occurred in the first place. Some churches only allow a marriage if a divorce has not occurred. A divorce order ends the legal marriage, but a record of the marriage is preserved.