Marriage can be legally ended by either a divorce or an annulment.
Divorce – also known as “dissolution of marriage.” The court is asked to end a marriage that is legally valid.
Annulment – cancels a marriage completely and can only be granted when the marriage is deemed to be either illegal or invalid after the grounds for annulment are proven. Either spouse can initiate an annulment, but the party that initiates has to must prove grounds for an annulment.
- Spousal Support – Either husband or wife can seek spousal support after a divorce. But after an annulment neither can seek support because the marriage has been found to be invalid from the beginning.
- Division of Property – Property acquired by either party during a valid marriage is generally considered to be community property. This is subject to division in a divorce. Usually, property acquired by a party during an invalid marriage remains his or her separate property.
- Grounds – Grounds for an annulment are typically: Misrepresentation or fraud, concealment of facts like one spouse is already married, underage, was forced to get married or the spouses are closely related. Grounds for divorce are typically: Incompatibility, irreconcilable differences, infidelity, or domestic abuse.
- Duration –A divorce can be granted at any length of marriage but typically an annulment is granted when the duration of the marriage has been short.
- Statistics –In the US it is estimated that 40%-50% of marriages end in divorce. There are 60,000 annulments granted yearly in the U.S.
Getting an annulment may prove to be a complex task due to the fact that it essentially erases the marriage, rendering some agreements completely void. It is in your best interest to seek the assistance of an experienced divorce attorney when you are determining if you qualify for an annulment.