The Difference Between Annulment & Divorce

An annulment is a statement from the court that determines that the marriage was never legally valid. An annulment makes it so the marriage never happened, essentially voiding any legal partnership. This is a retroactive invalidation.

Divorce requires court action and often can take more time to resolve matters between spouses, including division of property.

How Can a Marriage Be Annulled?

In order for a marriage to be annulled, a judge needs to determine whether there is good reason to invalidate a marriage. Due to different legal standings, the way an annulment is presented must differ from that of a divorce.

Reasons a marriage can be annulled include the following:

  • Force
  • Incest
  • Young age
  • Physical incapacity
  • Bigamy
  • Prior marriage
  • Unsound mind
  • Fraud

How Long Must I Be Married?

There is no minimum length of time that a person needs to be married in order to file for an annulment. However, there is a statute of limitations on the different reasons that someone may file for an annulment. Many of the statutes of limitations run four years after turning 18 or four years after getting married or discovering illicit information. Discovering a prior marriage can have an annulment occur at any point as long as all parties are still alive. Hiring an experienced family lawyer will be the best option for determining your best course of action when seeking an annulment.

What Happens to the Kids?

Since an annulment effectively removes any legal validity to the marriage, any children conceived during the marriage are also legally considered non-existent. Parentage must be established for children in this case. Once parentage is established, a judge can determine custody, visitation, and child support.

What Happens to My Property?

Once the legality of the marriage is removed, property laws that would apply in a divorce do not apply, including spousal support. A putative spouse can be established with the help of a lawyer. This determines that the marriage occurred with full belief in its legality. A lawyer will best help establishing this status.

How Annulment Differs From Divorce

A divorce is a legal dissolution of a marriage from filinf point to the future. In a divorce, the legality of the marriage is not questioned, but legal duties and responsibilities are reorganized or canceled. Divorce can include provisions for spousal support, child custody and visitation, and property distribution.

If you're wondering whether an annulment or a divorce is the next best step, talking with a family lawyer can help determine what to do. Cutter & Lax has over 30 years of experience navigating divorce and annulment cases and can help you with this process.