What Does a Marriage Annulment Involve?
When you want to end your marriage, you may wonder whether you should seek a divorce or an annulment, though you may not have the option depending upon your circumstances. In addition, you must meet specific criteria to qualify for an annulment, whereas you can obtain a divorce more readily in most states.
What Is The Difference Between an Annulment and a Divorce?
In short, the main difference between an annulment and a divorce is that an annulment invalidates the marriage as though it never existed. Alternatively, a divorce puts an end to a valid marriage. Spouses must also present the court with specific evidence depending on whether they seek an annulment or a divorce. Their obligations to each other may also vary depending upon which path they pursue.
Who Qualifies for an Annulment?
The law states that a spouse who wants to annul a marriage must provide the court with proof of particular grounds. These include:
- Fraud. One spouse lies about an ability to have children or refuses to consummate the marriage.
- Bigamy. One spouse is already legally married to someone else.
- Incest. Spouses discover that they are blood relatives.
- Lack of Consent. One spouse is under the legal age for marriage, and a legal guardian has not granted permission to marry.
- Unsound mind. One or both spouses were intoxicated when they entered the union or did not have the mental capacity to understand their actions.
- Duress. One spouse threatened, blackmailed, or otherwise pressured the other to enter the marriage.
By contrast, couples do not need to have a reason beyond irreconcilable differences to seek a divorce.
Can Spouses With Children Seek an Annulment?
The law grants annulments to spouses with children, though most annulments occur early in marriages and don’t involve children. After the voiding of their marriage, the spouses’ legal status reverts to single, indicating that a valid marriage did not occur. Still, children from annulled marriages are not considered illegitimate in the eyes of the law, despite their parents’ status.
Although an annulment legally ends spouses’ responsibilities to each other, their obligations to their children remain. Child support and child custody commitments and rules are the same as they would be with a divorce.
Is There a Time Limit for Seeking an Annulment?
Although most people request annulments early in a marriage, spouses can request annulments at any point. An exception is when the spouses continue living together after realizing the qualifying factor.