A person’s wedding day is one of the happiest of their life.
Unfortunately, the happiness of that day doesn’t always extend into the daily life of the married couple, which is evident by the high divorce rate.
If you’re looking to end your marriage, you have a couple of options: getting an annulment or getting a divorce.
What is the difference between these two marriage terminating options? And how will an annulled marriage impact your life and those of your children?
Annulment Definition: What Is It and How Does It Differ From Divorce?
To fully understand what an annulment is, it’s important to first look at the definition of annulment.
Like a divorce, a marriage annulment is the legal termination of a marriage.
However, that’s where the similarities end.
Ending a marriage this way means the marriage never happened in the first place in the eyes of the law. Conversely, when a couple divorces, the court dissolves a legally valid marriage.
When a judge grants an annulment, they are recognizing that the marriage wasn’t legal in the first place and should never have been established.
Couples who get married under the following circumstances have engaged in a union that is not considered legally valid.
These marriages are never legally valid:
- The marriage is incestuous (close blood relatives)
- The marriage is bigamous (at least one spouse is already married to someone else)
Other reasons for a marriage annulment include:
- At least one party involved in the marriage was under 18 years of age at the time of the marriage
- Either party was previously married but the former spouse was absent for at least five years or thought to be dead before the current marriage.
- One or both parties are considered of unsound mind. This can include people who don’t understand the responsibilities and obligations of marriage. It can also include being intoxicated during the ceremony and therefore of unsound mind.
- A fraudulent marriage. One or both parties entered into the marriage without disclosing vital information to their spouse that would’ve had an impact on the decision to get married. In other words, a spouse was deceived into marriage. Common examples include someone getting married to obtain a green card or not disclosing the fact that they can’t have children.
- Getting married because they’ve been forced into it.
- One party is physically unable to consummate the marriage and the incapacity is deemed incurable or permanent.
If you want to annul your marriage, you will have to disclose the reason why to the court and provide details so the judge can decide whether or not to grant an annulment.
This is different from divorce in that when a couple chooses to divorce, all they have to claim is irreconcilable differences.
How to Get an Annulment – Why Hiring a Lawyer Is Your Best Option
Annulments are considered a drastic end to a marriage. You’re not just terminating the marriage – you’re trying to legally void it. In other words – it never happened.
Therefore, the legal requirements for this type of dissolution are not taken lightly by the court. You have to have proof that at least one of the above requirements is true. In many cases, providing proof can be difficult.
Because of this, only a small number of annulments are granted compared to the number of couples granted a divorce.
If you’re interested in ending your marriage in this manner, your best course of action is to talk to a divorce lawyer.
An attorney has extensive knowledge of the law and can help you determine whether you have grounds for a marriage annulment or not.
They can also help you determine if this type of termination is in the best interests of you, your ex, and your children.
When a couple gets a divorce, spouses are eligible to receive alimony payments and child support. This isn’t always the case with annulments.
Another consideration is the time you have to file for a marriage annulment.
Each state varies when it comes to time constraints. And the reasons for termination can have an impact on the time frame as well.
For example, if you tried to claim that you entered into a fraudulent marriage, it typically takes some time to prove that fraud actually occurred. On the other hand, proving that one or both parties was a minor or mentally incapacitated are generally easier to confirm.
If you move to a new state, you must meet residency requirements there in order to qualify for the dissolution of your marriage. This can take some time and with the strict timeframe for an annulment, problems can arise.
The timeframe you have for filing for an annulment is typically one to two years.
What Happens If The Marriage Resulted in Children?
How will the children fare if the parents didn’t have a legitimate marriage?
Thankfully, under the law, children whose parents have been granted an annulment are still considered legitimate. However, they are not considered “children of the couple.”
A judge will establish parentage and then make orders regarding custody, visitation, and child support.
While some parents would rather have nothing more to do with their former spouse, each parent has a right to see their child – as long as the child is not in danger.
Getting court orders regarding custody and child support matters will protect both parents and, ultimately, the child.
Ending a Marriage Is Complex – Get Help to Get It Done Right
Deciding to terminate your marriage is typically not an easy decision to make.
Add to that the complexities of federal and state marital laws and it makes the decision even more complicated.
This is not something that you should try to do on your own. Whether you’re choosing to get an annulment or divorce, contact a divorce lawyer.
Their knowledge of the law can help you avoid emotional and financial mistakes that can cost you, your ex, and your children a lot.
If you’ve decided to end your marriage – it’s ok to ask for help. Doing so will ensure the process will be taken care of correctly right from the start.