Both divorce and annulment end a marriage, but they are very different processes with different sets of legal implications and effects according to a divorce lawyer from Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC. Divorce has no effect on the validity of a marriage during the time pre-divorce, while an annulment renders a marriage legally invalid. A successful annulment makes it so that, in a legal sense, the marriage never occurred.
State Family Codes outline the grounds for pursuing annulment. A marriage can be annulled if:
- A spouse was under 18 years of age and married without parental consent or a suitable court order.
- A spouse was under the influence of alcohol or narcotics.
- A spouse was permanently impotent at time of marriage and the other spouse was unaware.
- A spouse entered the marriage due to fraud, duress, or force.
- A spouse did not have the mental capacity to consent to marriage.
- A spouse concealed a recent divorce from their new spouse.
- The marriage ceremony took place less than 72 hours after the marriage license was issued.
It is important to note the difference between annulment and declaring a marriage void. While those in marriages eligible for annulment have the option of staying married, those in void marriages do not. Marriages are void if:
- The spouses are closely related by blood or adoption.
- A spouse was married to someone else at time of marriage.
- A spouse was under 18 years of age and married without suitable court order.
- A spouse is a current or former stepparent to the other spouse.
Divorce, in contrast, does not require any evidence to be presented. While many won’t qualify for an annulment, anyone can pursue a divorce. Some states offer no-fault divorces, meaning that it isn’t necessary to prove that either spouse did anything wrong to cause the divorce. In these cases, divorce is granted due to “insupportability” – a fancy legal term for “it just didn’t work out.”
As for property, some states are a community property state, meaning that property acquired during the marriage is generally considered the property of both spouses equally and is subject to an equitable split during divorce. Annulments pose a bit more complication, and each case is determined individually. However, judges overseeing an annulment may use the same standard and have the same authority to split assets as they would during a divorce.
Regardless of whether a marriage ends via annulment or divorce, any resulting children need to be provided for and both parents have responsibilities. An annulment involving children will need to include a SAPCR (Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship), which will handle things such as custody, child support, medical support, etc. If you are facing a divorce and are worried about the process, contact a lawyer near you for representation.