Annulment and divorce are both legal processes that dissolve a marriage, but they differ in the way they are conducted and the grounds on which they are granted. When it comes to ending a marriage, there can be conflict on which option may be the most suitable to you. Some key differences in the characteristics of the two may play a critical role role in finding which one will be the most beneficial end to the marriage. For example, the evidence needed to obtain an annulment over a divorce is different.
The largest difference between an annulment and a divorce is the legal dissolution of a marriage by a court where as an annulment is when a judge says in court that your marriage or partnership is not legally valid. If you get an annulment it is like your marriage never happened since it was not legal.
Below will be a breakdown of how each of the processes work and different situations where one may work better than the other.
What is an Annulment?
An annulment is a legal procedure in which the marriage between two people is considered null and void. The way the law sees it is as if they were never even married in the first place. There are much less concerns, such as the division of property so that the marriage dissolution can occur as fast as possible.
When to Get an Annulment:
There are some requirements you have to meet in order to get an annulment. Since these requirements exist, an annulment is not always possible. It is only granted in certain situations such as:
- Fraud: If one spouse lied about or concealed important information, such as their ability to have children or their financial status, an annulment may be granted.
- Bigamy: If one spouse was already married at the time of the current marriage, an annulment may be granted.
- Lack of Consent: If one spouse was under duress, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or unable to understand the nature of the marriage, it could be possible to have an annulment.
- Underage: If one spouse was under the age of legal consent at the time of the marriage, an annulment may happen.
- Incest: If the parties are too closely related by blood or adoption, an annulment may be the best option for it to never have happened.
- Lack of physical capacity: If one spouse is physically incapable of consummating the marriage, and the other spouse did not know about the incapacity at the time of marriage, an annulment may be granted.
It is important to note that annulment is typically granted under specific and limited circumstances and it also varies by state. Be sure to check with the state you reside in laws’. Additionally, annulment is usually a more difficult process than divorce, and it is typically easier to prove that a marriage has ended than that it was never valid in the first place. In most cases, an annulment must be filed within a short period of time after the marriage. They are much less common than divorces since of these conditions has to be proven in court for the annulment to be granted.
How Do I Get an Annulment?
To get an annulment, you will need to file a “Complaint for Annulment” in the court of the county where you or your spouse currently resides in. The spouse that is filing for annulment will be listed as the “plaintiff” and the other spouse as the “defendant.” This complaint for annulment is going to need to include a few difference pieces of information. You will need to list the full name, address and birth date for each person in the marriage. If there were any kids born during the marriage, those names and birthdays should be listed as well. If you are wanting the court to decide child custody, alimony or property division, or visitation policies that should be stated in the complaint as well.
The Hearing For An Annulment
When one party files for an annulment, the other partner is given the opportunity to respond. If one does not agree with the annulment, there will be a hearing held at the court in order to determine if when both spouses entered the marriage was it valid. If there is anything in the annulment papers that you disagree with that your spouse is asking for, you must file a response. It is important to file a response within 21 days, or the court could enter a default against you. An annulment is not final until written off by a judge, and once it is final it is like your marriage never existed.
What Is a Divorce?
Divorce is a formal way of ending a marriage. It begins with one spouse petitioning for divorce. According to a Divorce Report, the United States has the sixth highest divorce rate in the world, with about 40% to 50% of couples filing for divorce. One of the spouses must meet the state requirements for residency. A divorce resolves all marriage issues, such as the division of any assets and debts, custody, child support, and spousal support. Divorce varies from state to state for the rules regarding how and when you can file for divorce. There are generally two types of traditional divorce as listed below:
A no-fault divorce is when a spouse asks the court to end a marriage without blaming either spouse for the reason of it ending. This is allowed to be utilized in all 50 states of the United States. Rather than listing a specific incident of marital misconduct, the spouse filing for divorce must use only the state’s legal grounds for a no-fault divorce as the reason for the request. Each state usually has its own requirements, but typical options are incompatibility, irreconcilable differences, or irretrievable breakdown.
The goal of having a no-fault divorce is for one of the spouses who no longer want to be married to be allowed to get a divorce. In the past, only spouses who were able to prove misconduct were able to end a marriage. Courts now will not require you to stay married if you do not wish to. If one of the spouses does not agree with the divorce, if you are able to prove that you meet the state’s requirements for a no-fault divorce, the judge will likely grant the divorce.
A fault divorce requires the spouse that is filing to prove that the other spouse is the reason for divorce from engaging in certain conduct. There are only a few states of the fifty that will allow couples to choose this divorce process. Since one of the spouses has to prove that the other spouse has participated in some misconduct causing the marriage to fail, this way of doing a divorce is much more expensive and consumes a greater amount of time than no-fault divorces.
It is common for some couples to choose the fault divorce process because it may help them to get around the state’s mandatory waiting period. For others they may choose this process because proving the misconduct may aid in swaying the judge’s final decision on different things such as property division, alimony, or custody. Some of the most common fault grounds for divorce are abuse, alcohol or drug abuse, confinement in prison, abandonment, adultery, or desertion.
Courts can not force you stay married since it is against public policy, so if you fail to prove the claim at fault, the judge will typically proceed with the no-fault divorce process. Moving to the no-fault process allows you to still get a divorce even if you can not prove the claim at fault.
Consult With an Attorney
It is important to remember that statutes governing annulment and divorce change from state to state. The advantages and disadvantages of each may vary from one location to another. While the two ways of ending a marriage are both similar and different in their own ways, both types can become high in cost and become a very long process. They both start in the same way, with one or the two of the spouses asking the court formally for either a divorce or an annulment. One of the main differences is annulment showing that your marriage never legally existed, but divorce the marriage did exist. In comparison, it can also go smoothly and low cost if both parties are in agreement to end the marriage with minimal disagreements and issues.
Both of these processes can get complicated and messy. If you are pursuing a dissolution of your marriage, consult with a marriage attorney. The legal system can be confusing and even a bit scary. Get an attorney who cares and is going to make it their mission to get you through a stressful time. Contact Samuel Tipton Law in Knoxville and East Tennessee today to find out how we provide personalized care to clients when needed the most.