Divorces and annulments both have the same effect--they dissolve the marriage. However, they differ in how they treat the marriage. When people get a divorce, they are still recognized as having been married previously. An annulment, on the other hand, treats the marriage as though it never existed. Some situations place people in such awkward positions, that they simply want to treat the marriage as though it never existed. Some people do not want the stigma they believe attaches to divorce. Others may prefer an annulment for religious reasons.
Annulments are a form of relief for people who were placed in situations in which they never should have been married. Because civil annulments treat the marriage as though it never existed, a person must have a pretty good reason to obtain one. Typically, one of the following requirements must be met.
These things are usually discovered early on in the marriage, and so, there typically is no need to divide property or decide on issues regarding children. However, most state laws do govern how to decide such issues should an annulment of a long-term marriage occur. Check with your state's laws regarding property division and child custody, visitation, and support. If you do have children from an annulled marriage, these children are not considered illegitimate.
While the courts have their grounds for obtaining an annulment, the grounds for obtaining a religious annulment are different. However, both types of annulments have essentially the same effect--the marriage is treated as though it never existed.
In the Catholic Church, a diocesan tribunal, rather than a court of law, decides whether the marriage bond was less than a covenant for life, because it was lacking in some way from the very beginning. Either or both parties may obtain an annulment if they can show adequate grounds that the marriage was majorly lacking in some way. Grounds for finding that the marriage was lacking include a lack of:
If the tribunal grants the annulment, then both parties may remarry in the Catholic Church. Many churches do require, however, that a party from an annulled marriage undergo counseling before remarrying to ensure that the same mistakes are not made again. Like in the court of law, the legitimacy of the children of an annulled marriage is not questioned.
Next Steps: Get a Free Case Review from a Legal Expert
There are many misconceptions about legal annulments, including when they are available and under what circumstances. Each state has different requirements and not all persons seeking to annul their union will be entitled. Find out more by contacting a family law attorney who handles legal annulment cases for a free initial case review.