Image of a divorce lawyer signing papers for divorce or annulment.

Divorce or Annulment: The Difference

When looking to end a marriage, there are sometimes multiple ways to accomplish that goal. The most common route of dissolving a marriage is through divorce. However, sometimes an annulment can also be used to end the marriage. Functionally, these two processes will both end a marriage if they are successful. However, there are some key differences. 

The first difference between divorce and annulment is that while a divorce ends the marriage formally, an annulment makes it so that the marriage never counted. Essentially, an annulment declares that some core defect was present that makes the entire marriage illegitimate.

This also brings up a second difference between annulment and divorce: divorces do not have to find fault. In a divorce proceeding, the couple can either file a no-fault divorce in which no one is at fault for anything, or an at-fault divorce in which some member of the marriage is accused of causing the divorce. Due to the nature of annulments, all annulments are at-fault annulments. 

There are a number of causes for an at-fault divorce. These include:

  • Abandonment of the spouse
  • Adultery
  • Alcoholism
  • Domestic violence
  • Drug use

By comparison, the justifications for an annulment are quite a different matter. Annulments can be justified by stating that the marriage was defective from the outset. These defects include if the marriage:

  • Was between two blood relatives (incest)
  • Took place while one spouse was still married, in a civil union, or domestic partnership with someone else (bigamy)
  • Occurred as the result of force or the threat of force
  • Was based on some major deception or the spouse did not disclose children or significant debts (fraud)
  • Involved someone who was physically or mentally incapacitated
  • Involved someone who was below the legal age for marriage
  • Occurred while one or both spouses were severely intoxicated

All annulments need to be approved by the judge before they are valid and because they are invalidating the entire marriage, they may be more stringent than if the parties simply wished to be divorced. Both divorce and annulment can involve issues of child custody, spousal support, and equitable division of the assets. However, this is not always the case.

If you are considering a divorce or an annulment, then you will need an experienced family law attorney to help guide you through the process and protect your interests. The best way to find an experienced, local family law attorney is with Attorney at Law

At AAL, our nationwide network of attorneys and law firms can match you with the best family law attorney in your area. Our network of legal advocates is made up of firms and attorneys with a winning record, sufficient resources, and a record of client care. We understand what a delicate process ending a marriage can be and that’s why we make sure that our partners are empathetic and sensitive to your needs.

Don’t wait. Contact AAL today for a free, no obligation consultation and begin your journey back to peace of mind.

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