Contact us whenever you need it!

+1 855 997 0206

Contact hours: Mon-Fri 8am - 10pm ET

LEGAL DICTIONARY

Annulment

What Is an Annulment?

An annulment is a legal ruling that declares a marriage null and void. The decision makes it as if the marriage never took place.

The two types of annulments are civil and religious. A judge grants a civil annulment, while a church or a religious tribunal issues a religious annulment.

State laws vary on the time limits and other requirements for filing for an annulment.

Marriage Annulment vs. Divorce

An annulment is an alternative to a separation agreement or a divorce agreement for some couples.

The main difference between a divorce and an annulment is that a divorce decree ends a legal marriage, while an annulment declares that the marriage was never legally valid.

Another difference is that one or both spouses can file for an annulment after a very brief marriage, while some states require a marriage to have lasted one of two years or that the couple before granting a divorce.

Some states require that a couple live apart as part of a legal separation period before they can file for divorce. That requirement does not exist for an annulment.

When comparing annulment and divorce vs. legal separation, the difference is significant. With a legal separation, you are still legally considered a married couple, while, as stated previously, an annulment and a divorce end the legal marriage contract, meaning the court now sees you as two single individuals.

Similarly, an annulment decree also leaves a couple as two separate individuals in the eyes of the law since it declares that the marriage was never legal in the first place, making both divorce and annulment more permanent than a separation.

When Can You Get an Annulment?

The legal grounds for obtaining an annulment can differ between states, but they typically include the following:

  • Underage marriage: one or both spouses were under the legal age of consent in that state (typically age 18) at the time of the marriage.
  • Bigamy: one or both spouses were already married to someone else at the time of the marriage.
  • Incompetence: one or both spouses were impaired by alcohol, drugs, or a mental disability at the time of the marriage.
  • Failure to consummate the marriage: one spouse is unable to have sexual intercourse and did not tell the other spouse before marriage.
  • Fraud or Misrepresentation: one or both spouses have hidden or misrepresented significant information from the other spouse, such as children, debt, criminal record, illness, or substance abuse.
  • One or both spouses were forced or tricked into getting married.

Contrary to what many people assume, a short duration of the marriage is not one of the legal grounds for this legal ruling. However, some states will not grant annulments after a certain time period.

An Annulment in the Catholic Church

The Catholic Church teaches that marriage is a holy sacrament. A Catholic annulment declares that the marriage lacked one or more essential ingredients to a valid marriage. In order for a marriage to be valid under the Church, the couple should:

  • be able to give their consent freely and unconditionally
  • agree to fidelity, indissolubility
  • be open to having children
  • follow the sacrament
  • not have any impediments to marriage, including: coercion, impotence, bigamy, being underage, chastity vows, blood relationship, or receiving holy orders.

When the Catholic Church grants an annulment, it means that a couple was never married in God’s eyes. The decree means that the spouses can move forward with their lives as though the marriage never happened.

Helpful Resources:
California Courts - Annulment
Merel Family Law - What Is the Difference Between Divorce and Annulment?
Verywell Mind - The Difference Between Divorce and Legal Annulment
America Magazine - What is an annulment?

What Is an Annulment?

An annulment is a legal ruling that declares a marriage null and void. The decision makes it as if the marriage never took place.

The two types of annulments are civil and religious. A judge grants a civil annulment, while a church or a religious tribunal issues a religious annulment.

State laws vary on the time limits and other requirements for filing for an annulment.

Marriage Annulment vs. Divorce

An annulment is an alternative to a separation agreement or a divorce agreement for some couples.

The main difference between a divorce and an annulment is that a divorce decree ends a legal marriage, while an annulment declares that the marriage was never legally valid.

Another difference is that one or both spouses can file for an annulment after a very brief marriage, while some states require a marriage to have lasted one of two years or that the couple before granting a divorce.

Some states require that a couple live apart as part of a legal separation period before they can file for divorce. That requirement does not exist for an annulment.

When comparing annulment and divorce vs. legal separation, the difference is significant. With a legal separation, you are still legally considered a married couple, while, as stated previously, an annulment and a divorce end the legal marriage contract, meaning the court now sees you as two single individuals.

Similarly, an annulment decree also leaves a couple as two separate individuals in the eyes of the law since it declares that the marriage was never legal in the first place, making both divorce and annulment more permanent than a separation.

When Can You Get an Annulment?

The legal grounds for obtaining an annulment can differ between states, but they typically include the following:

  • Underage marriage: one or both spouses were under the legal age of consent in that state (typically age 18) at the time of the marriage.
  • Bigamy: one or both spouses were already married to someone else at the time of the marriage.
  • Incompetence: one or both spouses were impaired by alcohol, drugs, or a mental disability at the time of the marriage.
  • Failure to consummate the marriage: one spouse is unable to have sexual intercourse and did not tell the other spouse before marriage.
  • Fraud or Misrepresentation: one or both spouses have hidden or misrepresented significant information from the other spouse, such as children, debt, criminal record, illness, or substance abuse.
  • One or both spouses were forced or tricked into getting married.

Contrary to what many people assume, a short duration of the marriage is not one of the legal grounds for this legal ruling. However, some states will not grant annulments after a certain time period.

An Annulment in the Catholic Church

The Catholic Church teaches that marriage is a holy sacrament. A Catholic annulment declares that the marriage lacked one or more essential ingredients to a valid marriage. In order for a marriage to be valid under the Church, the couple should:

  • be able to give their consent freely and unconditionally
  • agree to fidelity, indissolubility
  • be open to having children
  • follow the sacrament
  • not have any impediments to marriage, including: coercion, impotence, bigamy, being underage, chastity vows, blood relationship, or receiving holy orders.

When the Catholic Church grants an annulment, it means that a couple was never married in God’s eyes. The decree means that the spouses can move forward with their lives as though the marriage never happened.

Helpful Resources:
California Courts - Annulment
Merel Family Law - What Is the Difference Between Divorce and Annulment?
Verywell Mind - The Difference Between Divorce and Legal Annulment
America Magazine - What is an annulment?