An annulment is different than a divorce in that it legally makes a marriage null and void. An annulled marriage is considered to have never existed. There are two types of annulment, legal annulment and religious annulment.
In order to have an annulment, it must be shown that the marriage was never valid to begin with. Some common reasons a marriage can be invalidated are:
- One spouse was under the legal age to get married at the time of the marriage
- One spouse suffers from mental illness, or was under the effects of alcohol or drugs at the time of the marriage
- One spouse was already married to someone else at the time of the marriage
- One spouse withheld important facts, such as a desire not to have children, inability to have children or having a serious illness
- The marriage was never consummated
- The marriage was between two people that are too closely related to be legally married, such as a parent and a child or aunt and a nephew
Religious annulments have nothing to do with legal annulments. They are granted by your religious institution, not your state. In some cases people obtain a divorce, and are later granted a religious annulment. Religious annulment requirements vary with each religion.
Differences Between Divorce and Annulment
The process of an annulment is very similar to a divorce. Similar papers must be filed and similar hearings are held. An annulment can usually be finalized much more quickly than a divorce. While annulments usually apply to short marriages, the duration of the marriage is not a factor in determining if an annulment is an option. For example, if two people were married for 30 years, but one of them was married to someone else first, it would qualify for annulment.
Because an annulment essentially means the marriage never existed, unlike with a divorce, there can be no claims for alimony or spousal support. Any children that were conceived during a marriage that was later annulled are considered legitimate children and child support, health care and visitation must still be determined for them. Some states are reluctant to grant an annulment for marriages that had children.
This article is for informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice. Please contact an attorney in your local area for more information about divorce law.
Additional Legal Tools: Visit the law offices of Elan Wurtzel for more information on divorce law and annulments.