What is an annulment?
In the United States, there are two ways to legally end a marriage. One is by divorce and the other is by an annulment. An annulment is a legal procedure which ends a marriage between two people and declares that the marriage never existed and was not valid.
Common grounds of annulments
Annulment rules vary from state to state. However, common grounds that apply in every state to receive an annulment are as follows:
1) Bigamy- Either party was already married to another person at the time of marriage
2) Forced consent- One of the spouses was forced or threatened into marriage and only entered under duress
3) Fraud- One of the spouses agreed to marriage based on lies or misrepresentation of the other
4) Marriage prohibited by law- Marriage between parties based on a familial relationship is considered incestuous
5) Mental illness- Either spouse was mentally ill or emotionally not able to make decisions at the time of marriage
6) Mental incapacity- Either spouse was under influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of marriage and was unable to make informed consent
7) Underage marriage- Either spouse was too young to enter into marriage without parental consent or court approval
Annulments may differ from states based on the time frame that a marriage can be annulled after the marriage takes place. For example, in Colorado, you have six months to prove you were forced into marriage by your spouse.
However, in the state of Ohio, you are given two years to file for an annulment, and California allows for 4 years to prove your marriage was voidable.
How an annulment differs from divorce
Both annulments and divorces resolve in the same outcome, ending a marriage. When a couple receives an annulment, they are asking that the marriage be declared non-existent and would prefer it not be known anymore.
But when a couple files for divorce, they are ending a marriage, but still recognize that it previously existed.
Different types of annulments?
There are two different types of annulments, Civil Annulments, and Religious Annulments.
Civil annulments are treated as though the marriage never happened on common grounds pre-approved by the state (these common grounds are listed above).
In order to obtain an annulment, one of the spouses must prove they were placed in a situation to now see that the marriage isn’t valid.
Religious annulments are requested under the same goal, to be treated as though the marriage never existed.
But the common grounds for obtaining a religious annulment are different than what is required for civil annulments. For example, the Catholic Church has a diocesan tribunal that decides if couples can receive the annulment instead of a court of law. A diocesan tribunal is an office that applies the laws of the church.