Annulment vs Divorce

Divorce Papers » Annulment vs Divorce

Annulment and divorce are two types of legal separation opted by couples who have arrived at a decision to separate from each other. Whether they file for annulment or for divorce depends on the reason they have drifted apart.

Divorce is of two types:

  1. No-fault Divorce - In this type of divorce, the parties arrive at a mutual decision to get a divorce and lead separate lives by severing all the marital ties and sorting out all the marital issues. Every little detail is addressed and signed by the couple. Neither party blames the other for the divorce.

  2. At-fault Divorce - In this type of divorce, the petitioner blames the respondent for the breakdown of marriage and asks for a divorce on the same ground. There are some defined grounds for granting a divorce which have to be proved in front of the court. These are adultery, bigamy, desertion, physical abuse, mental torture and cruel and inhuman treatment.

Annulment also has two types:

  1. Religious Annulment - This type of annulment is granted by the religious authority on the grounds that a true, sacramental marriage never took place and thus the union is invalid. However, the rules and grounds for a religious annulment differ according to the faith and the state for the individual, who files for religious annulment.

  2. Civil Annulment - This type of annulment is granted by the state court and is based on various grounds that are specified by the state such as fraud, concealment, refusal or inability to consummate the marriage or misunderstanding.

Difference between an annulment and a divorce:

  1. Status - In an annulment suit, the marriage is considered as it never happened, it is invalid and thus is erased from the records and declared as null and void; whereas, divorce severs all the marital ties and dissolves a valid marriage as the spouses drift apart.

  2. Settlement - In a divorce, spouses are entitled to alimony, support as well as inheritance whereas in an annulment, neither of the partner is entitled to alimony, support and certainly not inheritance.

  3. Process - The process of divorce is time-consuming, lengthy, emotionally draining, exhausting and complicated as compared to the process of annulment which is less hectic and a lot easy.

  4. Property Distribution - In case of the distribution of property, the court tries to restore the premarital financial status of the spouses whereas in a divorce, the property is divided between the conflicting parties according to either equitable distribution or community property 50 - 50 distribution.

  5. Duration of the Marital Relationship - The court always takes into consideration the duration of the marital life and the children produced by the marriage. If these issues are to be addressed, the court advises the couple to go for a divorce in order to sort the marital issues legally. However, if the grounds for annulment are met, the court can grant an annulment even if the couple is married for 20 years.

Grounds for Annulment:

  • Fraud - If the person's consent has been sought by resorting to fraud and lies, the spouse can file for an annulment. If a spouse is convicted of a fraud, that can also be a firm ground for an annulment.

  • Force - If a partner is forced into marriage by pressure or duress, he / she can file for an annulment as the marriage becomes invalid lacking the free consent.

  • Concealment - Concealment of one's marital status, true sexual orientation, citizenship, sexually transmitted disease or any information that seriously affects the partner and endangers the well-being of the spouse or their children.

  • Refusal or Inability to Consummate the Marriage - If a partner refuses or is unable to consummate the marital relation due to an illness, mental imbalance or any other reason, it makes a firm ground for annulment.

  • Mental Instability - If a partner suffers from a mental illness which renders him / her incapable to lead a normal life, indulge in substance or physical abuse or an unreasonable behavior can lead the court to grant an annulment citing the marriage as invalid.

  • Underage - If one of the spouses is underage or not a legal adult, the marriage is rendered as invalid and nullified.

  • Under Influence - If the couple testifies that they were under the influence of alcohol or any other substance during the wedding, the marriage can be annulled in the court.

Grounds for Divorce:

  • Adultery - Having flings, one night stands, extra marital affairs and romantic liaisons with multiple partners out of the wedlock is termed as adultery. A spouse can file for divorce on either of the grounds.

  • Mental Torture and Physical Abuse - If a spouse is subjected to physical abuse or mental torture which includes suspiciousness, locking up a spouse, spying, hitting etc; it is a strong base for the divorce.

  • Differences of Opinions - The couple could differ on opinions about various subjects such as standard of living, style of life, values and principles, financial decisions, etc. If these differences hinder the normal functioning of the household, this can be a ground to seek a divorce.

  • Incompatibility - The couples may differ on various levels such as intelligence, artistic inclination or physical attractiveness and if it comes in the way of their day-to-day lives, it becomes difficult to survive under the same roof and the couple can file for a divorce.

  • Substance Abuse - If a spouse is addicted to drugs, alcohol or any other substance and cannot provide the basic needs of the household and the children, it is considered as neglect and the divorce can be granted on the same grounds.

  • Bigamy - If a partner finds that the man / woman they married to is married previously and has a surviving non-divorced spouse, they can file for divorce in such cases. Bigamy is strictly prohibited in the USA.

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