Annulment Versus Divorce

What’s the Big Difference?

divorce lawsIf you’re considering separation from your spouse, you’ve probably heard terms like “divorce” and “annulment”. While law-speak can be confusing, these are actually two terms that are quite easy to understand.

Legally, there are two ways that you can end your marriage. You guessed it – through a divorce or an annulment. When you divorce (otherwise known as a dissolution of marriage) you’re legally ending a marriage that is seen as valid. Both parties return to their single status – both on the social scene and on their tax forms. An annulment or nullification essentially cancels the marriage, making it legally appear as though the marriage never existed to begin with.

Because “divorce” carries such a stigma in our culture, many parties often seek out an annulment. While either party can initiate the proceedings, the trick is proving he or she has grounds to do so. What are common grounds under which parties might be granted an annulment?


  • Mental Illness – A spouse was mentally ill or unable to consent at the time marriage took place
  • Threat – A spouse was threatened or forced into the marriage
  • A Third Party – A spouse was married to another partner who was alive when the second marriage took place
  • Age – A spouse was under a certain age and without court approval when the marriage happened
  • Impotence – A spouse is physically and incurably impotent prior to marriage (and it wasn’t made known beforehand)


These are just some of the grounds for annulment. For a full list, you will want to consult with a family lawyer. Or a personal injury lawyer for slip and fall accidents on the job.

Whether you want to pursue a divorce or an annulment may also depend on the state in which you reside. A divorce can be much more taxing than an annulment, but, similarly carries a certain set of rules. States either recognize a no-fault divorce or a fault divorce. No-fault divorces names neither spouse as the “cause” for the marital break-up. A fault divorce is granted when a spouse can prove adequate grounds. Grounds vary from state to state but may include crime convictions, drug or alcohol abuse and similar.

Speak with your attorney about whether annulment or divorce may be the best route for you and your spouse.

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