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Annulment vs. divorce – what's the difference?

George Simons | July 27, 2022

divorce vs annulment... what's the difference??

Summary: Considering a divorce or annulment? Here's SoloSuit's guide to the difference and everything you need to know about divorcement and annulment.

The end of a marriage can be a stressful and drawn-out process. Sometimes it's amicable, but often it's not. Even when both spouses can work together, there are an overwhelming number of legal considerations you'll have to make decisions about. When spouses are warring, the process is even worse.

At some point, you and your spouse will have to make a decision about how to end the marriage. First, you'll need to understand what the different options are and whether you qualify for them. Here's an easy overview of annulment vs. divorce, and which is right for you.

What is divorce?

Divorce is the legal ending of a marriage. Divorce proceedings can be complex and lengthy affairs, especially when it comes to the process of splitting up the couple's shared assets.

Even when spouses are in agreement about seeking a divorce, they might have some strong differences of opinion when it comes to dividing up the home, bank accounts, or shares in a family business.

When a marriage involves children, child custody and child support must be negotiated and planned. Emotions can run high when considering questions of primary custody, where the children should live, and how much support should be paid. Often, this further draws out the timeline for divorce proceedings.

When spouses can't agree through mediation, the divorce goes before a judge. The judge makes a ruling on issues like custody and how to divide up property.

Once all of the nuts and bolts are squared away, a marital settlement agreement can be put in place. Once this is achieved, the divorce can be finalized. At this point, the marriage is formally ended. Both spouses are legally divorced.

With a divorce, the marriage will always exist legally with a start and end date. This is the biggest difference between annulment and divorce.

What is annulment?

Annulment is like a legal marriage eraser. While you're certain to remember the time you spent married to your spouse after an annulment, legal institutions won't. Once an annulment is complete, legally speaking, it's as if the marriage never existed.

From time to time, you've surely encountered a legal form that required you to check a box indicating your marital status—single, married, separated, divorced, widowed. Notice that annulment isn't an option here. That's because an annulled marriage simply doesn't count in the eyes of the law. After annulment, you're legally single and always have been—despite having spent time married. Does it make sense? Not exactly. Is it the law? Yes, it certainly is!

While an annulment will make a previous marriage disappear from the official, public annals of the U.S. court system, you should know that the eraser isn't perfect. Your marriage will continue to exist permanently on record.

Who can get an annulment?

When faced with the question of annulment vs. divorce, annulment seems to come out ahead as the clear winner. Wouldn't this be the easiest choice to end every marriage? Unfortunately, it's not that simple.

When it comes to annulment vs. divorce, most people end up forced to choose divorce. This is because annulment is only an available option in a few situations. Most peoples' marriages won't meet the requirements for annulment.

If you want to get an annulment, you'll need to prove that your marriage meets the descriptions of one of these less common situations. One or both spouses must show:

  • You were tricked or forced into marriage
  • Your decision to marry was influenced by drugs, alcohol, or mental health issues
  • You were under the legal age for marriage
  • The marriage was incestuous
  • One spouse was already married
  • One spouse concealed a major issue

Most people don't qualify for annulment because these situations can be a bit extreme, and are fairly rare. The last point might be the most common way people successfully build a case for annulment.

Concealment of a major issue is a pretty vague concept. It can encompass a wide variety of situations. Common circumstances that might justify an annulment are when one spouse failed to inform the other of issues like a criminal record, substance abuse problems, or knowledge of infertility.

If you can prove that your spouse knowingly concealed a major, life-altering issue from you, an annulment might be possible. However, it still won't be easy. The question of annulment vs. divorce ends in divorce for the vast majority of marriages.

The cost of divorce can be high

When it comes to annulment vs. divorce, both are accompanied by high costs. In an annulment, spouses are not entitled to the benefits of divorce like alimony and an equal division of assets. Instead, the settlement aims to restore them to a situation that most closely resembles their finances before the marriage took place.

Divorce poses a much bigger chance of high losses and ongoing expenses. Alimony, child support, and an equal division of assets can deal a serious financial blow. This is especially true when the marriage was a short one, or a serious difference in earning ability and other assets exists between two spouses.

Another huge concern for divorcing couples is debt. If one spouse spent excessively with credit cards while the other was more frugal, debt allocation might leave you paying for years on a former spouse's debt. Health issues can pose the same risk, and one spouse might find themself stuck with a former spouse's huge medical debt.

Resolve debt caused by a divorce

Whether you're contemplating annulment vs. divorce or you already know that divorce is the only option for you, changing your marital status is often accompanied by serious financial risk.

Debt doesn't go away unless you know how to get ahead of it. If you're facing a lawsuit over debt you can't afford to pay, SoloSuit can help.

Millions of Americans lose debt lawsuits because they don't have the legal know-how to win against a debt collector. SoloSuit uses an automated online process to make fighting back against a debt lawsuit easy and affordable. Contact SoloSuit for help with your debt lawsuit today.

What is SoloSuit?

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