What is the Difference Between Divorce and Annulment?

The old cliche that “50% of marriages end in divorce” is not exactly true, statistically speaking. In the United States in 2019 (and therefore not accounting for the pandemic), 2.7 marriages out of every one thousand individuals ended. A total of 746,291 marriages ended in America in the same year. Divorce can be a lengthy, costly, and emotional process. There is another option available to couples who wish to end their marriage – annulment. It is seen as a sometimes simpler and cleaner cut way of ending a legal union. No matter how simple or quick it may seem, seeking the correct legal representation is crucial. Firms such as ABM Family Law, for example. ABM are Chicago divorce attorneys who also deal with annulments.

What is Annulment?

An annulment is a legal procedure that declares a marriage void. Put simply, if a marriage is annulled it is as if it never existed in the first place. There are two different types of annulment in the U.S. There is a civil annulment, which ends the marriage in the eyes of the laws of the state. If there was a religious element to the marriage, then a religious annulment can also be sought. A religious annulment alone is not enough to legally end a marriage.

Annulments are less common than divorces. This may be because many marriages do not meet the criteria for an annulment. Two different categories of annulment criteria exist – those for a void marriage, and those for a voidable marriage. If the marriages are considered void, it could be for one of these reasons:

  • If the two people in the marriage are closely related, by blood or by marriage – known as incest (father and daughter or mother and son, for example).
  • The location in which the marriage has taken place is not legally registered to perform such ceremonies.
  • Either one of the parties is already in a marriage or civil partnership, which is legally referred to as bigamy
  • One or both spouses are under the age of sixteen.

Void marriages are those that should have never taken place. Voidable marriages are those that can take place but upon request can be dissolved. They have different but equally valid reasons, including:

  • The marriage has not been consummated, as in the couple have not had sexual intercourse, either by choice or by incapacity.
  • One of the people in the marriage was in the process of gender transition.
  • The marriage was not consensual.
  • One of the spouses could not consent due to a lack of mental capacity, reliance on (or the effects of) drugs or alcohol, or being under duress.
  • One or both parties were suffering from an STD or was pregnant with another person’s child at the time they were married.

How is Annulment Different to Divorce?

If an annulment is granted by a judge, it is as though the marriage never happened. Divorce is different and just terminates marriage status. Because of this, additional issues must be settled. Should the married couple have children, custody and support must be decided, as well as alimony and property. All U.S. states allow for a no-fault divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. If there is a fault, however, such as adultery, abuse, fraud, or desertion, there are similarities between divorce and annulment. There is a burden of proof to annul a voidable marriage and to complete divorce proceedings. Crucially, in the case of an annulment, there is no recourse to seek spousal or child support. Some states do allow for this but, for the most part, a divorce may be better for those looking for support after the marriage ends.

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