Making the decision to end a marriage is an emotional and stressful journey with many considerations. When contemplating divorce many individuals consider if a legal annulment is an option. For some, it can be easier to dissolve a marriage through a legal annulment versus divorce, but annulment is not an option available to everyone looking for a shortcut to a dissolution of their marriage. It is a good idea to understand the differences between annulment and divorce so that the most appropriate method is chosen.
Annulment & Divorce Defined
Annulments are meant to “erase” marriages that were never legal and should not have taken place. But this means that a marriage needs to fall under certain conditions before either spouse can file a petition for an annulment.
Divorce is known as dissolution of a legal marriage and responsibilities of marriage, under the rule of law of the particular state. In most cases, divorce can be granted regardless of the reasons that led to the marital breakdown.
Main Differences and Requirements
While the end result – dissolution of marriage – is the same for annulment and divorce, each carries different requirements. In general, an at-fault or no-fault divorce can be sought as long as the marriage is valid. A no-fault divorce is one in which neither party is required to prove fault. One party must allege and testify only that either irretrievable breakdown of the marriage or irreconcilable differences exist between the parties.
This is in contrast to an annulment that is based on having specific legal reasons to dissolve the marriage. In California, a marriage can be considered unlawful and subject to annulment if:
- Either spouse is already in an existing valid marriage.
- Close blood relation between the partners.
- One party was a minor when the marriage occurred.
- The marriage was a result of fraud or coercion.
- One of the spouses was not in a right state of mind at the time of the marriage.
It is also important to keep in mind that there are specific deadlines when it comes to an annulment, whereas there are none in divorce. For example, the statute of limitations for an annulment based on a minor marrying sets the timing requirement at four years. If the statute of limitations has already expired, annulment is likely no longer an option. In that situation, or similar, a divorce is the only option to end a marriage.
In a divorce there are no timelines to abide by. In other words, as long as the marriage is legal, either party can file for divorce at any time during the marriage. For many people divorce is the better option as spousal support can be ordered, as opposed to an annulment.
Making sound decisions is key during the dissolution of marriage. An experienced California family law attorney can assist you in following the necessary process with either annulment or divorce. It is important to get legal advice to better understand the effects of choosing annulment over divorce, whether they be legal or emotional for yourself and if applicable, your family.