The most significant distinction between a divorce and an annulment is that a divorce terminates a legally valid marriage, whereas an annulment declares a marriage to be legally invalid.
Divorce is the process of legally dissolving, terminating, and ending a legally valid marriage. Divorce dissolves a legal marriage and declares the spouses single once more.
Annulment: A legal decision that declares a marriage null and void, indicating that the union was never legally valid. The marriage records, however, remain on file even if the marriage is erased.
Annulment vs. Divorce: What Are the Legal Grounds?
The basis for an action—the reasons why a decision is justified—is referred to as “grounds” in legal terms. There are several reasons to seek a divorce rather than an annulment. The primary reason for ending a marriage is that one or both spouses wish to separate.
When the parties acknowledge that the marriage existed, they seek a divorce, which is far more common. When one or both of the spouses believe that the marriage was legally invalid in the first place, they seek an annulment.
Divorce: Fault vs. No-Fault
Adultery, imprisonment, and abandonment are all common reasons for fault divorces. In a no-fault divorce, neither party must show that their spouse is at fault in order for the divorce to be granted. Every state recognizes no-fault divorce. The term “irreconcilable differences” is frequently used to justify a no-fault divorce.
Regardless of the type of divorce, the divorcing couple may still have disagreements about property, finances, child custody, and other issues that require court intervention. Fault divorces can result in larger settlements for the non-fault party.
An annulment is a legal process that dissolves a marriage that at least one of the parties believes should never have happened. The legal grounds for annulment vary by state, but they usually include the following:
- One or both of the spouses were coerced or duped into marrying.
- Due to a mental disability, drugs, or alcohol, one or both spouses were unable to make a decision to marry.
- At the time of the marriage, one or both spouses were already married (bigamy).
- One or both of the spouses were under the age of marriage.
- It was an incestuous union.
- One spouse hid a major problem, such as substance abuse or a criminal record. From one, a child, and from the other, an illness.
- An annulment is much less common than divorces because one of these conditions must be met and proven in court for it to be granted.
- Both types of divorce can be costly and time-consuming in the courtroom. And they both begin with one or both spouses filing a formal divorce or annulment petition with the court.
- If both parties agree to end the marriage without many disputes or disagreements about how to do so, either a divorce or an annulment can be simple and inexpensive.
Annulment vs. Divorce: When Should You Annul?
Because of the short duration, many people believe that a very brief marriage can be ended with an annulment. However, a short duration is not a legal basis for annulment. To be annulled, the marriage must still meet one or more of the conditions listed above.
Furthermore, a long-term marriage might not be eligible for an annulment. After a certain amount of time has passed, many states will not grant an annulment. In California, for example, an annulment based on fraud must be requested within four years of the discovery of the fraud (one partner alleges that the other deceived them into agreeing to the marriage). 3
An annulment can be requested very soon after a marriage has taken place. However, in some states, a couple must be married or in a committed relationship for a certain amount of time (usually one or two years) before filing for divorce. In some states, the couple must live apart for a certain period of time before either party can file for divorce.
Following a Divorce or Annulment
The following are some of the distinctions between the two types of divorce: The marriage is considered to have never legally occurred after an annulment. It’s as if the clock has been reset to the time before the marriage. Former spouses may still have obligations to each other after a divorce, such as spousal support and property division.
Following a divorce, spouses are frequently entitled to spousal support, alimony, or a share of each other’s profits or property acquired during the marriage.
In contrast, with an annulment, the parties are no longer considered valid spouses and are not entitled to the same rights. Instead, they’ll go back to where they were financially before the marriage.
The children of a couple whose marriage has been annulled are still considered “legitimate” (i.e., not born to unmarried parents). However, in some states, the assumption of parentage shifts, and the judge must determine the children’s parentage as part of the annulment process.
The court and/or the state can then determine custody and support requirements as they would in a divorce proceeding (or immediately in states where the assumption does not change). Even if their parents’ marriage is considered invalid, children are still entitled to the support of both parents.
Divorce and annulment are governed by many religious traditions. Religious clergy or written guidelines are frequently used to grant permission. Obtaining permission from religious leaders for an annulment or divorce is usually a separate process from the legal process.
The rules governing divorce and annulment in your religion will often determine whether one, both, or neither of the partners is allowed to remarry within the religion, in a religious ceremony, or participate in other religious rituals.
A court of law may take religious marital status into account, but it is not required to do so when deciding on spousal support, property disputes, or other legal issues.
Canterbury Can Help With Marriage Annulment In Arizona
Marriage annulment is a term many people have heard of, but only a few really understand. Forget about what you may have heard about annulment on TV. There are actually two types of marriage annulments: civil and religious. A religious annulment is granted by a religious institution like a church and its clergy. Civil annulment is granted by a court of law and affects your legal civil status. This article explains civil annulment. Learn more about Marriage Annulment In Arizona.
The Canterbury Law Group should be your number one choice for when you need an annulment in Phoenix or Scottsdale, Arizona. Our experienced family law attorneys will work with you side by side to achieve the best possible legal outcome. You can trust Canterbury Law Group to represent you fully, so you can get on with your life. Call today for an initial consultation!
*This information is not intended to be legal advice. You can contact Canterbury Law Group today to learn more about your unique situation.