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What is the difference between annulment and divorce?

On Behalf of | May 20, 2024 | Divorce |

When a marriage dies, couples may consider annulment or divorce as legal options. Either way, the goal is to untangle lives as cleanly and thoroughly as possible.

While both processes result in dissolution, there are key differences that spouses going separate ways should recognize.

Grounds for dissolution

The reasons for ending a marriage constitute the primary distinction between annulment and divorce. When there is a divorce, a court declares the union irretrievably broken, meaning the parties cannot reconcile their differences. An annulment declares the marriage null and void. Judges typically allow annulment for specific legal reasons, such as fraud, coercion or incapacity.

Legal status of marriage

Another difference between annulment and divorce is the legal status of the marriage following the proceedings. In a divorce, both spouses become single once the divorce is final. An annulment declares the marriage void ab initio or invalid since the beginning. In the eyes of the law, the marriage never existed.

Division of assets and responsibilities

With divorce, marital property is typically divided equitably between the parties. Clear decisions happen regarding child custody, visitation and spousal support. In contrast, an annulment may not involve the same division of money and duties, as the marriage is legally invalid. That said, courts might still address issues such as property division and financial support on a case-by-case basis.

Whether to pursue annulment or divorce depends on the specific circumstances of the marriage and the goals of the individuals involved. Understanding the differences between these two processes can help couples decide what to do when their romance falters.