The Difference Between Annulments and Divorce

Divorce, Family Law, Northbrook Attorney

It is common to confuse annulments and divorce because the end goal of both is the termination of a marriage. However, both concepts are not the same. They are different legal processes, and they have different procedures and consequences. This article explains the difference between an annulment and a divorce. Read on to find the contexts to which each of these is applicable.

What is an Annulment?

Annulment is the legal term for the process that pronounces a marriage void or invalidated. A marriage can only be annulled if the marriage is considered legally defective. If a marriage is annulled, it is as if it never took place, and the parties are returned to the same legal status they had before the marriage.

Annulments are not to be confused with divorces. Annulments only apply to false marriages, while divorce terminates a valid marriage that meets legal requirements. With divorces, the marriage can be terminated due to irreconcilable differences, no questions asked. A core difference between an annulment and a divorce is that while the former deems a marriage null and void, the law still recognizes that the marriage existed despite the divorce. Annulments are also frequently quicker to complete and easier to acquire than divorces. However, annulments are less frequent than divorces, and different jurisdictions have varying requirements for getting an annulment

Who Can Get an Annulment?

The grounds for getting an annulment may differ by state, but some of the most common grounds for annulling a marriage include the following:

  • Lack of Consent

If one spouse is believed to be unable to legally give consent, whether due to mental incapacitation, drug influence, or being below the legal age of consent, the marriage can be annulled.

  • Duress

Marriages that were enforced against the will of one spouse, whether by force, threats, or against either spouse’s will, are eligible for annulment.

  • Fraudulent Behavior

If one spouse failed to disclose vital information or lied about identity, being able to have children, or their desire to be monogamous, it qualifies as grounds for annulment.

  • Incest

If spouses are found to be closely related by blood, the marriage is considered incestuous, and this counts as a reason for annulment.

  • No consummation

If a marriage wasn’t consummated, that is, the spouses have not had sex since the marriage, it can be considered as a reasonable ground for annulment.

Asides from the above-listed reasons, a marriage can also be annulled if one spouse is found to have been married to another person before they married their current spouse.

What to Expect From Your Annulment Process

After determining that your marriage meets the grounds for annulment, you can begin the process. While you may be able to handle the process yourself, it is vital that you speak to a family law attorney about the specifics of your case. The grounds for annulment differ by state, and this is why you need to consult an attorney. Your attorney will give legal counsel and help take charge of your documentation, filing, and court appearances, if necessary.

The annulment process begins with filing a petition with the appropriate courts. In this petition, there will be a statement that states the reasons for annulments and evidence backing it. After filing, you must formally serve your spouse with annulment papers, whether in person or by mail. There will be a hearing if necessary, and after evidence is presented by both parties, the court decides whether or not to grant the annulment petition. If this decision is unfavorable for you, your attorney can appeal to a higher court.

Need to speak to an experienced family attorney? Reach out to us. We are ready to help you through this process and get you the desired results. Begin here today.