Regardless of the route to achieving it, ending a marriage is a complicated matter. When searching to end a marriage, the common phrase is “I’m getting a divorce”, but is that really the correct option for your life’s situation? Legally, because a marriage is a legal agreement, there are certain caveats that make the difference between an annulment and a divorce.
What is a Divorce?
A divorce is the ending of a legal marriage. This means that your marriage was legally accepted and represented by the state in which you reside. A divorce ends the marriage you entered, and declares both parties to be legally single and no longer connected.
Divorce is the most common way to dissolve a marital agreement. They are sought after when both parties, or spouses, agree that the marriage exists and understand that their union is a legally binding agreement.
Why Get a Divorce
There are many reasons people get divorced, but the shared theme is that one person wants to leave the legal union that was agreed upon. The most common causes to seek out a divorce are adultery, imprisonment, abandonment, abuse and consistent conflict.
Divorces have common grounds to be fought over when filing and ending the legal agreement of marriage. Typically these disputes become more personal and complicated when there are more pieces involved, like children, multiple properties and finances.
What is an Annulment?
An annulment is more complicated than a divorce – it is a legal ruling instead of a dissolution or termination. These legal rulings erase a marriage by declaring it null and void, and declare the union to not be legally valid. For a marriage to be legally invalid, there must be grounds for it. Those grounds can include hidden facts (a secret child or illness not disclosed), incest or bigamy (one or both parties are already married) can make the marriage illegal.
When getting an annulment, even with the marriage being erased, the marriage record still remains on file. Annulments are sought after when one party, or spouse, believes there was something legally invalid about the marriage.
The Caveats to an Annulment
To be granted an annulment, your marriage must meet certain requirements. These requirements vary by the state you reside in and were married in and are hard to meet, making the occurrence of being granted an annulment rare.
The requirements typically include:
- One or both spouses were tricked or forced into marriage
- One or both spouses were not able to agree to the marriage due to substance abuse, alcohol use or mental disability
- One or both spouses were already legally married (bigamy)
- One or both spouses were not of legal age to marry (this age varies by state)
- The marriage was of incestuous grounds
- Hidden facts not disclosed to one of the partners
To Keep in Mind if You’re Religious
If you’re religious, there are some things to keep in mind when considering a divorce or annulment. Depending on your faith, there are different rules regarding if you are allowed to marry again or if you are allowed to seek dissolution of the marriage you currently reside in. Talk to your religious leader if there are any questions or doubts about that process moving forward.
When filing for divorce or annulment, you need to obtain permission to do so from your religious leader or by following written guidelines established by your faith. This process of obtaining permission is an entirely separate process from the legal process of divorce or annulment, and must be done before pursuing one.
Legal disclaimer: Do not take the following article as legal advice, as these are broad topics and are not specific to your situation. Contact a lawyer to help define your situation further.
For more information on how to proceed with ending a marriage, contact Bineham & Gillen for legal advice pertaining to your life’s situation.