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Annulment vs. Divorce: Understanding the Differences

Divorce and annulment are both legal procedures designed to dissolve a marriage. However, a divorce ends a marriage and an annulment voids the original marriage contract, so it's as if the marriage never occurred. If you're weighing the idea of annulment vs. divorce, it's important to understand the differences.

Why Get an Annulment?

There are many reasons for getting an annulment, but many people seek to have a marriage annulled because they don't believe in divorce on religious grounds, or they do not want the stigma of having been divorced.

To receive an annulment, you must be able to demonstrate that the marriage was invalid from the start and, therefore, should be voided. Among the reasons for annulling a marriage:

  • You and your spouse are close blood relatives, or close relatives by marriage or adoption
  • Either spouse was impotent and the marriage was not consummated
  • Either spouse was still legally married to another person when the marriage occurred
  • Either spouse was not legally old enough to be married at the time the marriage occurred
  • Either spouse was forced into the marriage
  • Either spouse was not mentally competent when entering into the marriage contract
  • The marriage was fraudulent because either spouse failed to disclose details such as a criminal history, the presence of sexually transmitted diseases or impotence

Why Get a Divorce?

Many people will opt for a divorce because divorce no longer carries the social stigma that it once did. In contrast, an annulment can imply that one person did something wrong when agreeing to get married.

In addition, many states now allow no-fault divorces, which do not require either party to prove wrongdoing.

Annulment vs. Divorce

The choice of whether to get an annulment vs. a divorce is a personal one, but you and your spouse must agree which legal procedure is best for you. Either a divorce or an annulment still requires you to address issues of property division, spousal support and child custody. One of the differences between annulment and divorce is a matter of semantics: You are technically "unmarried" or "single" if you get an annulment but you are "divorced" if you get a divorce.