While divorce effectively ends a marriage, the legal process of annulment declares a marriage null and void. In other words, it treats the marriage as if it didn’t exist.
Annulment and divorce
Annulment is different from divorce in many respects. It acts retroactively, making the marriage invalid from the beginning, and effectually voiding the marriage from existence. While most jurisdictions grant annulments that ‘wipe’ marriages completely from either spouses’ legal record, some only make the marriage void from the date of the annulment itself.
Many reasons exist for people to choose an annulment over a divorce. For some people, annulments have a better ‘reputation’ than a divorce, so the annulment process makes them feel more comfortable about legally ending their marriage. Some parties, however, choose annulment for religion reasons. Thanks to that, two different types of annulments exist.
A civil annulment is usually granted under a state government by a judge. Annulments, including civil annulments must be filed within two years of the marriage date. And, although a civil annulment seems simpler than a divorce, they’re often marred in restrictions that make them trickier than a divorce in some respects.
Civil annulments are usually granted on the basis of several factors. The grounds for a civil annulment varies from state to state, though most states list the following reasons for receiving an annulment. Here are a few examples of those specific reasons:
- Fraud or misrepresentation by a spouse.
- No consummation of the marriage.
- One spouse forcing the other into the marriage.
- Bigamy, or if one spouse is still married at the time of marriage to another.
- Marriages under illegal grounds, such as those involving underage parties or incest.
- Marriage under an unsound mind, usually through consuming drugs and/or alcohol at the time of the wedding.
Most annulments are known to take place after short marriages, usually those lasting a few weeks to a few months. That usually leaves all of the usual legalities, such as property division and child custody, out of the picture.
Religious annulments are carried out within the Roman Catholic Church and other religious establishments. Couples can typically obtain a religious annulment after they receive a civil divorce.
This allows one or both parties to remarry within the church, and have that second union recognized under the church. Because marriages aren’t legally impacted by a religious annulment, both parties must divorce before starting the process to receive one.
People who wish to remarry under a religious institution seek a religious annulment. They do need to request their ex-spouse to formally respond and agree to the annulment before proceeding. They don’t have to agree to the annulment or their participation in the process. Once both parties agree, they need to provide copies of specific documents, including baptismal certificates, their civil marriage license, their church marriage certificate and their certified divorce decree.