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Annulment versus Divorce

Annulment Versus Divorce

Although an annulment and divorce both eliminate a marriage, there is a fierce contrast in structure, method, frequency and result between the two. The first aspect and most glaring difference between divorce and annulments are the aftereffects imposed. An annulment legally erases a marriage like it never existed. The marriage was never void under an annulment, it never happened, and was never performed. A divorce on the other hand recognizes that a marriage did exist and that it was indeed legally recognized.

Under an annulment the two parties who engaged in marriage have always been single, in a divorce, they were once married and subsequently considered ex's. Commonly misunderstood, the transfer of assets, property, and debts are similar between annulment and divorce. Like divorce, the couple will go to court and state their respective cases on how they feel the assets should be distributed.

Children are always an emotional issue when one marries and receives an annulment or divorce. Like assets, the battle over children in a divorce is extremely volatile and messy. Time is usually divided between both parties, but visitation, and whom the child lives with is dependent on the situation. Like divorce, there can be a battle over custody or child support under an annulled marriage. This is rare however, considering that most annulments occur within the first few months of marriage.

Divorce and annulments also differ in their administration and how they are viewed. The structure of an annulment and divorce are also quite interesting to compare and contrast. In an annulment there is always a guilty side and a non-guilty side, a plaintiff and defendant so to speak. Should one person violate the contract of marriage, and the other individual exposes the wrongdoing to void the exchange of vows. With a divorce there are two types of cases-a no fault case, and a fault case. With a 'no fault' case both individuals consensually agree to divorce, there is no party that caused it, and it is completely mutual. In a fault case a guilt party exists and it takes on the role of an annulment case.


Reasons for obtaining divorce and annulments are also inconsistent. Spousal abuse, although disgraceful, can exist among married couples. Because annulments are religiously influenced, there must be a violation of the marriage annulment laws to receive a declaration of nullity. Imperfectly, abuse is not grounds to annul. Fraud, religious mishandling, incest, polygamy, concealment of information, and being under age are all common violations that would permit an annulment of marriage. Adversely, divorce offers a couple much more leeway in regards to ending a marriage. Under most marriages, the option of divorce is based on the couple's discretion and justification is not warranted.


A great differentiation between divorce and annulments can be found when looking at the frequency of such cases and the length of the typical marriage. 90% of marriages are ended via annulments within the first year of the wedding. With marriages that last a few months or often a few weeks there are usually no children or joint properties to battle over. Divorces can occur at any time during the marriage, but the norm usually revolves around 3-8 years.


Understanding the differences and benefits of both divorce and annulments is vital. Depending on the situation, stress, finances, and time can be reduced by choosing the appropriate of the two methods. An annulment and divorce both end a marriage. However, they can offer distinct benefits and costs given your circumstances. A cost/benefit analysis between divorce and an annulment is imperative if marriage has reached some sort of breaking point.

NEXT: Availability of an Annulment

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