We all know that divorce and annulment are related to dissolution of marriage. Then what is the difference between annulment and divorce? Once the married couple has decided to separate, they can either initiate an annulment proceeding or a divorce proceeding. (There are two types of annulment proceedings, one is the civil annulment, which is conducted by the state and the other is the religious annulment, which is conducted by the church.
The annulment, explained in this article is strictly civil annulment, as religious annulment is different for each religious authority.) A basic idea about the various aspects of both legal proceedings can help in choosing the right one, which is best suited for your circumstances. (Some married couples opt for legal separation, without divorce, wherein the court decides on every other aspect, like, division of property, alimony, child support, custody and visitation.) Read more on legal separation vs divorce.
Coming to annulment vs divorce, the basic difference between the two lies in the fact that the former is a legal proceeding to obtain a decree that the marriage was invalid from the very beginning, whereas a divorce proceeding is initiated to end a valid marriage. In short, in a divorce, the court relies on the fact that there is a valid marriage, but through a divorce decree, stops the valid marriage from continuing. In case of annulment, the court assumes that whatever happened was not a legal marriage and there is no need of termination of marriage. All that is required, is to declare the union of the couple as invalid. Now, you know the basic difference between annulment and divorce, which are law terms, that can be confusing for many. Read more on law terms – glossary of legal terms and meanings.
Annulment vs Divorce – Procedural Differences
Now, you know the basics of annulment vs divorce. As far as the legal procedures are concerned, annulment proceedings are considered to be less messy, as compared to divorce proceedings, which can be lengthy too. Most of the annulment proceedings do not take into consideration, other factors, like, alimony, division of property, child custody, etc., whereas in a divorce proceeding, usually, the court rules on most of these factors. Even though, the rules of annulment and divorce vary from one state to another, the basics are more or less the same. As an annulment results in declaring a marriage invalid from the beginning itself, there is no question of maintenance or alimony, which is granted in divorce. When it comes to distribution of property, the court tries to restore the original financial state of the parties (before the marriage), but in a divorce proceeding, the court tries to divide marital property equitably. In divorce, child support and custody are matters, which are taken into consideration, whereas this is not the case in annulment, with exception to some states. Read more on divorce advice and divorce attorneys.
It has been observed that annulment proceeding is also treated like a divorce proceeding and all factors are taken into consideration, in case of very long-standing relation between the parties. In general, it has been seen that marriages of short duration are qualified for annulment, while long standing marriages qualify for divorce proceeding. While grounds for divorce include cruelty, adultery, desertion, physical inability to consummate marriage, infidelity, abandonment, bigamy, etc., the grounds for annulment include misrepresentation or fraud, concealment, inability to consummate the marriage, misunderstanding, etc. Any of the parties can initiate an annulment or a divorce proceeding. But, it is always better to consult a