What Is Annulment and How Does It Differ from Divorce?
Posted on February 14th, 2023
Divorce can be emotionally and financially challenging. Unfortunately, as many know, divorce is common in the U.S. In the United States, between 35%-50% of first-time marriages end in divorce, increasing to approximately 60% for second marriages and 70+% for marriages after the second.
But divorce is not the only way to dissolve a marriage in the U.S. Couples can also get their marriage annulled. Although divorce and annulments have the same purpose, they are not the same. The basic difference between annulment and divorce is how they view marriage.
If you are separating from your spouse, you should compare annulment vs. divorce and understand the differences. It can help you choose an option that best suits your needs.
Annulment vs. Divorce: How Are They Different?
As mentioned before, there are two ways to end your marriage in the U.S. And before we dive into the difference between annulment and divorce, let’s first answer, “What is an annulment?”
What Is Annulment?
Our seasoned divorce and annulment attorney often faces this question. An annulment is a legal ruling that ends a marriage by declaring it null and void. It essentially states that the union was never legally valid.
However, your marriage records remain on paper even after the annulment. As you can see, an annulment means your marriage was legally invalid. It doesn’t mean that your marriage never took place.
Types of Annulments
There are two types of annulments, civil and religious. Each has its own significance, depending on the couple’s culture and religion.
1. Civil Annulments
This is a legal way to pronounce a marriage null and void. In the U.S., only civil annulments are recognized by the law. In other words, if you want to null and void your marriage legally, you need a civil annulment, preferably with the help of a divorce and annulment attorney.
2. Religious Annulments
As the name suggests, these annulments are recognized by a religion. The process and rules for such annulments will vary depending on your religion. Many religions have guidelines regarding divorce and annulment.
Usually, a religious authority will issue written guidelines declaring the annulment. But remember, a religious annulment is neither binding on the courts nor a substitute for a legal annulment.
What Is Divorce?
Divorce is a legal process that dissolves a legally valid marriage. This is how many couples part ways in the United States and the rest of the world.
The court will proceed with the divorce in accordance with the law. Your assets, investments, and debts, among other things, will be divided either equally or equitably. If you have children, the court will also decide on child support, child custody, and visitation rights on a case-to-case basis.
Difference Between Annulment and Divorce
By now, it must be clear that annulment and divorce are quite different, except for their end goal, which is to dissolve a marriage. Let’s understand the main differences between annulment and divorce.
This is one of the main differences when pursuing an annulment vs. divorce. The legal grounds for seeking a divorce vary from those for an annulment.
A divorce is more common, which you can seek if only your marriage is legal. The grounds for a divorce can include adultery, imprisonment, or abandonment. This is often called an at-fault divorce. However, sometimes couples may mutually decide to go their separate ways, which is called no-fault divorce.
You need the following grounds for seeking an annulment.
- Fraud or misrepresentation, where one of the parties lied about something like already being married.
- Concealment involves hiding a major fact, such as a felony conviction.
- Bigamy, where one or both spouses were already married at the time of the marriage.
- One of both spouses was not of legal age to marry.
- Impotence, where one spouse hid this fact from the other.
- One of both spouses can’t make the decision to marry due to mental disability, drugs, or alcohol.
- One or both spouses were tricked or forced into getting married.
Remember, the short duration is not legal grounds for an annulment. You have to satisfy at least one of the above conditions to get your marriage annulled. On the other hand, divorce laws may vary from state to state.
In Pennsylvania, you can file a divorce only if at least one of you, (the spouses) has lived in PA for at least the last six months.
Finances and Assets
Another big difference between annulment and divorce is the distribution of assets and finances. After the annulment, the parties are not considered to have legally been spouses. So, they may not be entitled to the same property rights as a divorcing couple.
However, you can seek spousal support, alimony, or a portion of each other’s profits after a divorce. Pennsylvania is not a 50-50 state. As a result, the court will divide your assets equitably.
In an annulment, the children are not considered illegitimate. However, the court may have to decide their parentage before awarding custody and other rights. Children are also considered to be entitled to support from both parents. This process is often similar to deciding custody and child support in a divorce. However, speak with a divorce and annulment lawyer first.
Annulment vs. Divorce: Which is Better?
Annulment vs. divorce is really not a matter of debate. You will have to seek either annulment or divorce, depending on the legality of your marriage. Given the complexities involved in these cases, you should consult an experienced lawyer. They can help you take the right course of action.
Contact A Reliable Divorce and Annulment Attorney Now
Choosing to separate is a life-altering decision for a couple. You must think this through before acting. And that’s why you must consider annulment vs. divorce as soon as possible.
If you are unsure about whether to get a divorce or an annulment, contact Kalinoski Law Offices. Our attorney knows how to fight for your rights, helping you get the justice you deserve.
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Craig P. Kalinoski is a respected attorney serving clients in Scranton, Pennsylvania. With a focus on Family Law, Criminal Defense, and Civil Rights, he has established himself as a top-rated legal professional. Recognized as a Rising Star and admired by peers, Craig's commitment to excellence sets him apart in the legal field.