“Till death do us part!” is declared by the partners before the priest or the marriage council.
Understanding annulment vs divorce calls for a careful study of both terminologies because they result in the same outcome: the marriage’s cancellation and the parties’ separation.
In real essence, they differ in how the law perceives the union after the act has taken place. It is also essential to understand the difference between annulment vs divorce and know when either is valid and required.
Marriage tends to be the goal for some partners in a relationship, and when the partners achieve their goals. However, the tragedy is that sometimes marriages experience breakups in the form of annulment or divorce.
What is the fundamental difference between annulment vs divorce?
A divorce retains the indication that a separated couple was once married and that the marriage was valid or authentic.
On the flip side, in case of an annulment, it is assumed that the separated couple were never validly married; that is, the union was illegitimate or illegal at first.
It is easy to see annulment vs divorce as the dissolution of a marriage and the couples’ separation. But the underlying effect, according to the law, differs in the two contexts.
The definitions of the two will unveil the legal effect as it pertains to annulment vs divorce.
What is a divorce?
A divorce is the dissolution of a marriage, subjected to due process of the law. It usually applies to couples who were legally married under the provision of the law that binds matrimony.
Divorces occur by one or more faults arising from a partner in the marriage. But there could be a “No-Fault Divorce” that permits a spouse to divorce the partner on grounds other than faults found. What is an annulment, then?
What is an annulment?
Annulment of marriage is a judicial procedure that terminates a marriage, establishing that technically the marriage never existed or was not valid.
The differences between a divorce and an annulment
Although both divorce and annulment result in the cancellation of the couples’ marriage and separation, you can easily spot the differences between annulment vs divorce.
Fundamentally, the difference between annulment and divorce is that an annulment legally declares a marriage to be invalid, having dissolved the union. Still, a divorce terminates a marriage while retaining the fact that the marriage was legally valid.
Annulment vs divorce differs concerning the marriage’s validity, sharing of assets and liabilities, grounds for obtaining either, and presentation of witnesses. They also differ in the post-marital status of the couple, the involvement of alimony or any spousal support, the length of the period required for obtaining both, etc.
The table below shows the differences between annulment vs divorce.
It is assumed that the marriage existed
The ruling declares that the marriage never existed
The assets and liabilities of the spouse are shared
It doesn’t involve the sharing of property
The grounds for divorce may not be specific (especially for no-fault divorces)
The grounds for an annulment are very specific
A witness or proof may not be required (especially for no-fault divorces)
The proof and witness must be present
The marital status of the couple after a divorce is: Divorced
The marital status under annulment is either unmarried or single
Divorces usually involve alimony
An annulment doesn’t involve alimony
Before filing a divorce, the length of time varies between 1 to 2 years as the case may be, which could be determined by the state
An annulment can be filed immediately after a partner finds a ground to do so.
Divorce or annulment may become necessary when it is the best solution to the marital challenges couples are constantly facing. The grounds for annulment are pretty different from that of obtaining a divorce.
Consider the following settings to get a divorce or/and an annulment as the case may be.
Grounds for obtaining a divorce
There must be valid reasons for divorce, except if it is a “No-Fault Divorce.” Some of the grounds for obtaining a divorce are as follows:
1. Domestic abuse
If at any point, a spouse is found to have imbibed the act of maltreating the partner by way of physical or psychological abuse, then the partner can obtain a divorce.
2. Unfaithfulness (adultery)
A spouse’s lack of faithfulness to the partner by having extramarital affairs can prompt the partner to obtain a divorce.
The prescribed length of marriage for getting divorce vs annulment
There is no deadline for filing for a divorce. There is no prescribed length of marriage before you’re eligible to file a divorce. However, you must have been separated from your partner for 12 months (one year). Within this period of one year, the couples should have lived separately.
On the other hand, how long after marriage can you get an annulment? The time limit for getting an annulment differs. The kind of situation prompting the annulment will influence the rules for annulment. In California, an annulment must be filed within four years, depending on the reason.
The reasons include age, force, coercion, and physical incapacity. The case of deception or fraud takes four years also. But you can get an annulment of marriage based on mental instability at any time before the death of your spouse.
Annulment vs divorce is treated differently from a religious angle compared to the legal standpoint.
Some religions have underlying rules and guidelines that regulate divorce and annulment. It may require that a spouse seek the religious leader’s permission to grant the go-ahead for a divorce or an annulment.
It also states in the guidelines whether divorced couples or couples granted an annulment could remarry. The religious rules about divorce vs annulment are usually an entirely different process compared to the legal process.
The religious practices as it applies to divorce can be seen as follows. The religious rules for an annulment or divorce vary according to the religion that the concerned people follow.
These are some common religious rules.
Getting a divorce
1. It is essential to state that theRoman Catholic Church does not recognize divorce. The only criterion for ending a marriage is when one of the spouses dies. If a couple gets divorced according to the state’s law, the couple is still regarded as married (in God’s sight).
2. The Pentecostal Church sees marriage as a covenant that involves the couples and God, which cannot be broken except on the ground of unfaithfulness or adultery.
Hence the Holy Bible states that “Anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” – Matthew 19:9. Therefore, the ground for divorce here is unfaithfulness or adultery.
3. The spouse may not be permitted to marry another person after a divorce due to unfaithfulness or adultery. There is an exception on the ground of the partner’s death after the divorce.
Even annulments are governed by religious rules, and not just the rules of the state or the country. Christianity recognizes religious annulment and permits a spouse to remarry, having obtained an annulment on the grounds as stated for obtaining an annulment.
1. The petitioner seeking to obtain an annulment is required to submit a written testimony concerning the marriage and a couple of witnesses.
2. The respondent is contacted if he/she refuses to sign the petition. Nevertheless, the process can still go on if the respondent refuses to be involved. This point answers the question for those who may likely ask, “Can you get an annulment without the other person?”
3. The petitioner and the respondent are given the right to read the testimony as submitted by the petitioner.
4. Each of the spouses has the right to appoint a church advocate.
5. The church also chooses a representative known as “the defender of the bond.” The representative’s responsibility is to defend the authenticity of the marriage.
6. Suppose at the end of the process, and the marriage is nullified. In that case, the spouses have the right to remarry in the church, except an appeal follows, seeking that either spouse cannot proceed until they completely deal with any unresolved issues.
One cannot categorically state that divorce is better than an annulment because the contexts where each of them applies differ.
But a divorce still retains the claim that a divorced couple’s marriage was valid, while in the case of an annulment, the couple is seen to have never been married because it nullifies the union.
Nevertheless, since the couple in the case of an annulment can remarry (from the religious rule), couples in divorce are strongly prohibited from remarrying, except where their partner dies.
It is imperative to say that “annulment is better than divorce” in this case.
From a general point of view, the difference between annulment and divorce may not be evident because the two have the same outcome: the dissolution of the marriage that results in the couples’ separation. But annulment vs divorce has different rules.
The law still regards that the marriage of a divorced couple was valid. But the union of a couple that was nullified is viewed as to have been invalid. This is the main difference between both terms.
Therefore, it is essential to ensure that proper attention is given to the subject matter of marriage to avoid or overcome a divorce or an annulment. In divorce vs annulment, the outcomes are not pleasant.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Rachael Pace is a noted relationship writer associated with Marriage.com. She provides inspiration, support, and empowerment in the form of motivational articles and essays. Rachael enjoys studying the evolution of loving partnerships and is passionate about writing on them. She believes that everyone should make room for love in their lives and encourages couples to work on overcoming their challenges together.