what is a marriage annulment

What is a Marriage Annulment?

In some circumstances, marriage is the wrong choice for some couples. Sometimes the decision to wed is an impromptu one, or perhaps details about a person’s past surfaces after vows are shared. When two people choose to wed, they most likely aren’t planning for an immediate separation. If you’ve married and you’re having immediate doubts, you have some options for separation. An annulment may be an option for those with doubts immediately after getting married, or when it is discovered that illegal or fraudulent events took place at some point during one spouse’s life. So what is a marriage annulment and what are the requirements? Each state follows different guidelines for annulments, but there are a few important details to consider regardless of where you were married. Let’s take a look at the difference between an annulment and a divorce, and discuss some of the basic requirements you’ll need to meet in order to obtain an annulment. 

what’s the difference between annulment and divorce
What’s the difference between annulment and divorce? In some cases, certain scenarios may deem a marriage invalid based on past history or misrepresentation.

What is a marriage annulment?

First and foremost, a marriage annulment is the process in which a marriage is completely wiped from the record. It’s the process by which a marriage is removed from legal existence permanently – as though the marriage never took place in the eyes of the court. A common misconception is that annulments are only for individuals who were married in haste, or may have an immediate change of heart after vows are spoken and the certificate is submitted to the courts. While this is the most common scenario, there are many legitimate reasons for marriage annulments regardless of the length of the marriage. We’ll go over these reasons below:

  • Biological relation of spouses – Some states allow for annulment when the married individuals are closely related.
  • Age – A marriage may be annulled if either person was under the age of 16 at the time of marriage.
  • Consummation – Some states allow for annulment if intimate relations do not occur after the marriage.
  • Unsound mind – A marriage may be annulled if you or your spouse did not properly consent before marrying. Eloping, or marrying under the influence of alcohol or drugs can constitute lack of consent.
  • Bigamy – If one or both parties were already legally married to other people at the time of marriage, it may be annulled.
  • Pregnancy – If one spouse was pregnant with a child not their current spouse’s.
  • Misrepresentation – If a spouse misrepresents an essential fact of marriage, such as large amounts of debt, criminal history, or the ability to have children, the marriage can be annulled. The right to claim marriage fraud is waived if the innocent spouse knew about any of these scenarios and failed to separate. 

What is the difference between divorce and annulment? 

The difference between divorce and annulment are very clear. A divorce is the end of a valid and legal marriage whereas an annulment is the legal ruling that a marriage was void or never valid in the first place. An annulment erases the legal contract between spouses. Even though an annulment makes a marriage null and void, marriage records will still stay on record with the vital records office. 

Another consideration when seeking a marriage annulment is the religious aspect. If the married couple is part of the Catholic church, it’s important that they research the religious marriage annulment requirements with their church. In most cases, a civil annulment (the process of annulling a marriage legally) must take place before the Catholic church will consider an annulment. These requirements can vary a great deal and will impact a person’s participation and any future marriages within the Catholic church. Even if only one spouse is a member of the church, they are required to follow the church’s guidelines and requirements for annulment before remarrying within the church.

What are the state requirements for a marriage annulment?

It’s important for anyone seeking a marriage annulment to research their state’s requirements before proceeding. Some states have time limits on when and why a marriage annulment may be granted, while others may have different requirements for grounds. It’s best to check with your county clerk’s office and ask what their specific requirements are before starting the process. In many states, an amicable annulment can mean that paperwork is filed and minimal fees are paid, whereas other states may require a court hearing regardless of mutual consent. 

Unlike a divorce certificate, an annulment is granted when the judge overseeing your annulment issues a decree of annulment. This deems your marriage null and void, and means in the eyes of the government, you were never married. Unlike in a divorce proceeding, in the case of an annulment, any assets or property an individual had at the time of the marriage remain in the hands of the person who owned them prior to marriage. Some civil matters may need to be settled in civil court if either spouse disagrees with ownership. An annulment does not affect the legitimacy of any children born during the marriage regardless of the length of the marriage. While an annulment is typically much less expensive, it may be necessary to seek legal counsel to assist in any ownership of property or custody arrangements for children born between parents who sought a marriage annulment. When in doubt, please seek the advice of legal professionals to assist in this process.


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