Annulment versus Divorce

How Marriage Annulments Differ from Divorces and the Grounds for Obtaining a Marriage Annulment

by Allysyn Overton, Esq.

Divorces and annulments have the same outcome of ending the marriage. When a divorce is entered, the parties are still known as having been previously married, but when an annulment is entered, the parties are treated as having never been married at all.

Annulments are reserved for parties who found themselves in situations in which they should not have been married. For example, if they were not old enough to give consent to the marriage, or they were lied to about a major fact of consequence of their partner. Annulments mean that the marriage never existed, so the reason for the annulment has to be a very good one, such as:

· Lack of consent. If one of the parties was forced or coerced or was insane or intoxicated at the time he/she/they entered the marriage. This most often occurs in situations of arranged marriages by the partner’s parents.

· Hidden fact. If one partner hid a significant fact, such as a drug addiction, major criminal conviction, child(ren), impotency, or STI.

· Misrepresentation of material fact. If one partner lied about something major, such as being married previously or currently, not having ability to marry, using you solely for citizenship status, or being underage.

· Misapprehension. If confusion between the partners exists around a big topic, usually around the desire to procreate.

· Impotency. If one of the partners cannot procreate and is incurable. The other partner cannot have known about his/her/their partner’s impotence at the time he/she/they married. If the other partner knew about the impotence before the marriage, she/he/they will be deemed to have consented to marrying someone with impotence. So, usually, the annulment is sought shortly after receiving the impotency diagnosis from a medical professional.

· Incest. If the partners are too close in familial relation, including whole or half siblings, first cousins, parents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, etc.

Since these circumstances are usually realized early in the marriage, dividing property or deciding custody of children is often not necessary. However, most states do have laws that explain how these things are to be decided, taking the totality of the circumstances into account. A court may determine that a divorce is more appropriate if there are major property or child custody issues to be ordered. Keep in mind that children of annulled parents are considered to be illegitimate.

Religious Annulments

Religious annulments are usually sought in cases where a partner’s church does not allow remarriage after divorce, since the effect is that the marriage is treated as though it never existed. Each church has its own requirements for a religious annulment, usually lacking any of the following:

· Openness and honesty

· Maturity

· Voluntarily entering the marriage

· Appropriate motivation

· Emotional stability

· Capacity to establish a loving marital community

Many churches require annulled partners to undergo religious counseling before remarrying to ensure they do not repeat the mistake that was made of the annulled marriage.

When a partner does not meet any

of these requirements, or when there is property, debt, or children of the

marriage, a divorce can be sought. The most common basis for a divorce is

irreconcilable differences. The court will ask the partner seeking the divorce

if there is anything the court or anyone else could do to correct the differences.

The answer is usually, “no.” During divorce proceedings, courts will decide

issues such as child support, spousal support, property and/or debt division,

and child custody and visitation.

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