When it comes to dissolving a marriage, couples have several options. The two most common approaches involve obtaining a legal separation or filing for divorce. However, some married couples select another option. Instead of a separation or divorce, these individuals seek an annulment. Understandably, many people are confused on how annulments work. Although annulments end a marriage, these are slightly different from divorces.
What is an Annulment?
In a nutshell, couples who seek an annulment will have their marriage completed erased from the marriage books. In essence, the marriage never took place. Of course, this idea sounds a little ridiculous considering that most annulled marriages take place in front of witnesses. Furthermore, it’s very likely that persons of annulled marriages continue to refer to their “non-existing spouse” as their first husband or wife. Putting all this aside, annulments are very different from divorces. Divorces entail the legal ending of a real marriage, whereas annulments legally end a supposedly imaginary wedding.
How to Get an Annulment?
If filing for a marriage annulment, you will need to use an attorney. Unlike divorces, which can be settled without representation from an attorney, annulments are tricky – and for good reason. Each state has its own legal decisive factors. For the annulment to be handled properly, couples should select attorneys with ample experience handling cases of this sort. An ordinary divorce lawyer may not be knowledgeable in annulments. During the initial consultation, inquire of their previous experience.
Similarities of an Annulment and Divorce
Although annulments and divorces are viewed very differently from a legal standpoint, they do have one common trend. While annulments label a marriage as “never taken place,” the court will determine the dividing of assets, debts, and custody. This process also occurs during divorce proceedings. Of course, if the couple can come to an agreement on their own, the court will honor their wishes.
Speak to a Priest or Rabbi
Before filing papers for an annulment, it is wise to consult a priest or rabbi from your church. Because of the sanctity of marriage, some churches view annulments in an unfavorable light. Instead, couples may be encouraged to attend counseling. If the marriage continues to head downhill, the couple may consider filing a divorce.
Time Frame for Filing an Annulment
The time frame allowed for filing an annulment varies. The majority of couples who seek an annulment do so within the first few days or weeks of marriage. This generally happens when marriages take place while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. On average, couples must seek an annulment within two years of the marriage date.
Reasons for Obtaining an Annulment
Before an annulment is issued, couples must meet certain requirements. Couples who cannot meet the criteria are better candidates for divorce. The following lists the requirements for obtaining an annulment in most states:
• Same sex marriage
• Marrying a bigamist
• Marrying a cousin, sibling, or other blood relative
• Underage marriage
• Marrying while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
• Spouse withholding vital information at the time of marriage (ex-convict, child molester, illness, previous children, etc)
• Inability or unwillingness to consummate the marriage