What is the Difference Between an Annulment and Divorce?

At a basic level, the difference between an annulment and a divorce is that one process for dissolution, the divorce, recognizes that there was a union between two people which no longer exists, while the other process for dissolution, the annulment, states that a union never existed. Every state, territory and the District of Columbia have their own laws and policies regarding annulments and divorces. But, there are some procedures for a union?s end that are the same across America and the territories.

Couples must file a civil process to obtain a legal conclusion for both divorces and annulments. In addition to a civil annulment, some couples may need to obtain a religious annulment in order to remarry within their faith. Not all states recognize or grant annulments or no-fault divorces. To understand the governing laws in any given local, it would be advantageous to seek the advice of a family law attorney.

1. Annulment: One or both parties must be able to prove that information not disclosed before the union would have made the marriage invalid or illegal.

2. Divorce:
a. An absolute divorce is when one or both parties can prove a wrong doing or a fault. The outcome of the procedure is that one or both parties will be named as guilty for the failure of the marriage.
b. A limited divorce is when both parties are granted permission to live separately but still remain legally married. There are a number of states that will convert a limited divorce to a final divorce decree after the two parties have lived apart for an extended period of time.

A request for an annulment may be granted if, at the time of the marriage, one or both parties were:
1. Underage and entered into the union without parental consent.
2. Already married to someone and had not obtained a legal divorce.
3. Prohibited by law to create a union based on a close familial relationship.
4. Mentally incapable of properly consenting to the union due to excessive illegal drug or alcohol use.
5. Unable to consummate the marriage.

A request for a divorce may be granted if one or both parties can prove:
1. Adultery
2. Physical or emotional abuse
3. Addiction to drugs, alcohol or gambling
4. Criminal activities or a criminal conviction
5. Desertion or abandonment

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