Your wedding day is one of the most beautiful, special days of your entire life. It’s something that’s been anticipated since your engagement. If you’re like a lot of people, though, you’ve probably been anticipating this day for even longer than that.
Once the engagement has been announced, you started planning for your big day right away. You spent an inordinate amount of time and money to ensure that your special day turned out perfectly – just the way you’ve always imagined it would be. When the day finally arrives, you’re filled with a cocktail of emotions. You’re stressed, happy, excited, and maybe even a little bit sad that one part of your life is closing.
After your wedding day, you and your spouse plan to live together in wedded bliss. You’ve heard about the so-called honeymoon phase of a marriage and how it’s often short-lived. You anticipate that yours will last for decades – you’ll defy the odds.
Tragically, not all marriages survive very long after the wedding day. If you’re in a relationship that’s ending, what are your options? So, you need to file for divorce or can you get an annulment?
Annulment Vs. Divorce – Is There Really a Difference?
To many, an annulment is so similar to a divorce that they use the terms interchangeably. Actually, the only similarity that they have is that they’re processes implemented to terminate a marriage. What are the differences between the two?
An annulment basically erases a marriage completely. In the eyes of the law, the marriage is null and void. In fact, the marriage was never legally valid, according to annulment laws. Some people seek a religious annulment, but that’s not enough if you want your marriage to be dissolved legally. You’ll need to take steps to annul it through the court system as well.
A divorce is the termination of a legally legitimate marriage. In some states, obtaining a divorce can be an extremely complex process, much more so than getting an annulment. When a couple goes through a divorce process, they have to divide up their assets and debts. They also have to work through alimony payments, as well as custody and child support payments if any children resulted from the union.
In years past, the couple had to file what’s referred to as a “fault divorce,” which means that one spouse was guilty and one was innocent. In other words, the marriage was being dissolved because the guilty spouse did something wrong.
This could be due to:
- Physical abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Conviction of a crime
- Drug addiction
- Alcohol abuse
- Gambling addiction
- Incurable mental illness
Of course, these aren’t the only reasons why people can get a divorce. In order to file for a fault divorce, one of the spouses would have to show that there are grounds for a divorce.
Quite a few states have moved past the fault divorce and now offer a no-fault divorce option. In this case, neither spouse needs to be identified as the guilty party. Instead, the couple can name “irreconcilable differences” as their reason for divorce.
Annulment Requirements – What You Need to Know
About Dissolving Your Marriage
Now that we know what’s required to get a divorce, what about an annulment? Here are some of the important things you should know about dissolving your marriage via the annulment process.
What Are the Grounds for an Annulment?
Getting an annulment means your marriage basically never took place in the eyes of the law. What sort of circumstances could lead to such a decision?
Here are some of the grounds for this marriage dissolution process.
- One or both parties were tricked into getting married.
- The marriage was forced, with one of the parties being threatened into the union.
- The marriage was an incestuous one.
- The marriage resulted in bigamy.
- One or both parties knew that they were physically unable to have children but didn’t inform the other person.
- One or both parties are mentally unable to make such a serious decision.
- One or both parties withheld important information, like already having children, not wanting to have children, having legal troubles, or being in trouble with the law.
- One or both parties were unable to make the decision to get married because they were mentally incapable to do so due to drug or alcohol intoxication.
- One or both parties weren’t of legal age to enter into a marriage (marriageable age ranges from state to state).
What Are the Advantages of Getting an Annulment?
The major advantage of getting an annulment is that it protects the innocent party or parties involved. Getting into a marital situation that is based on fraud, threats, or broken laws is, in a sense, a form of slavery. It’s against the law, as it should be. There are some other benefits to ending a marriage this way, too.
First of all, you don’t have to go through the division of debt and assets like divorcing couples do. You get all of the property and assets back that you had when you were single. If debt accrued while married, this will be divided evenly. Any debt you had before the marriage will belong solely to you.
Children Will Not Be Illegitimate If the Parents Get an Annulment
Does nullifying a marriage mean that any resultant children will be illegitimate? This is worrisome. After all, illegitimate children aren’t always guaranteed their right to child support or an inheritance. Fortunately, children born during a civil union that has since been dissolved are not considered illegitimate.
However, it’s important to note that having children can make the annulment process more difficult. The court will require more evidence that there are grounds for this type of dissolution. This is mainly in an effort to protect the children. If reasonable evidence is presented, the marriage will be annulled.
Every State Is Different – Check with an Attorney to Ensure Best Practices
We live in a DIY – do it yourself – society. People want to take care of as many things on their own as is humanly possible. This can range from decorating a room to servicing your own vehicle to building a house on your own from the ground up.
Some people even approach legal issues with their DIY attitude. Tackling some legal issues on your own is fine, as long as you educate yourself adequately and are well-prepared. The dissolution of a marriage is not one of those legal issues, though.
There are way too many intricacies involved, and it can be easy to miss something. A family law attorney can ensure that all of your “Ts” are crossed and your “Is” are dotted. Another reason to get legal counsel is that each state has its own annulment requirements.
Granted, most states have similar requirements, but some states have additional prerequisites. For example, in Colorado, a marriage can be annulled if the couple was married in response to a dare or as a joke. There are many states, as well as countries around the world, that list the concealment and discovery of AIDS, HIV, or some other sexually transmitted disease as grounds for an annulment.
A family lawyer has the know-how necessary to help you determine whether you’re eligible for an annulment or not. And if you are, they will help you through the process so that you can end up with the result you want. This isn’t guaranteed if you try to take matters into your own hands.
The Dissolution of a Marriage Is Serious Business –
Make Sure You Do It Right
You’d probably agree that things in a marriage need to get pretty bad in order to get to the stage where you’re contemplating ending the marriage. The stress of being in a relationship that isn’t fair or in which neither partner is getting along can seem overwhelming.
At first, you want to try and repair the relationship. But over time, that stress and the other negative feelings entangled in this situation can take their toll. Eventually, you feel like you’re suffocating and that, in order to preserve your sanity and overall wellbeing, you need to get out of it.
And while ending the marriage might be the best decision – it might not be. All too often, people feel so stuck that they make the decision to end the marriage before they’ve tried everything to repair it. Additionally, some people report they didn’t anticipate that the emotions they’d feel after they dissolved the marriage could, in fact, be worse than what they felt while married.
We’re not saying that this is the case with everyone. There are plenty of couples who need to end the marriage for a variety of factors. But we also want to encourage couples to make sure they try everything they can think of to repair the marriage before they end it.
Doing so can potentially save the marriage, and even make the couple stronger than ever. On the other hand, if the couple decides to go their separate ways, they can feel confident knowing that they did all they could to save the marriage. They will know in their gut that their final decision was the right one.