Understanding Annulment and Divorce

While most people enter into a marriage planning on it lasting forever, sometimes that’s just not the case. Whether the couple grows apart, rushes into marriage, or simply decides that getting married was a mistake, they may want to end the union. The state understands that these situations exist and have protocols in place for ending the marriage based on the circumstances of that specific situation.

Ending a Marriage

There are legally two ways that you can end a marriage; an annulment and a divorce. The laws regarding these two forms of legal separation differ depending on the state in which the couple resides. But while the many rules and regulations differ, there are some requirements that are nationwide.


An annulment is a form of separation in which the marriage is completely erased. If an annulment is granted, the court declares that the marriage was never valid and, therefore, never actually existed. This form of ending a marriage can be initiated by either spouse in the marriage but there must be proof that they have grounds for such an action to be carried out. If they are able to prove that they have grounds for an annulment, the marriage becomes null and void.

There are several grounds for an annulment that are common. These include bigamy (a spouse being legally married at time of marriage), forced consent (a spouse entering marriage under duress by being forced or threatened), fraud (marriage based on a lie or misrepresentation), a marriage prohibited by law (blood relatives), mental illness (being mentally ill or emotionally disturbed at the time of marriage), mental incapacity (being under the influence of drugs or alcohol), inability to consummate marriage (being unable of having sexual relations during marriage), and underage marriage (spouse being too young to enter into marriage without parental consent or court approval).


The more traditional way of ending a marriage is by divorce. This is ending the marriage through legal dissolution. Under the terms of a divorce, a valid marriage officially ends and both participants in the marriage are able to return to single status with the ability to remarry. While a divorce can be much more complicated than an annulment, largely due to the length of the marriage, the process legally and officially ends a valid marriage. In most divorces, marital assets will be divided and all debts between the couple are settled. If children have been produced as a result of the marriage, custody, visitation, and spousal and child support will be decided.

Depending on state law, there are two types of divorce that a couple can file for; fault and no-fault. Many divorces are of the no-fault kind. These types of divorces are also called separation due to irreconcilable differences. This type of divorce allows the two spouses to legally separate without either being considered responsible or guilty for the divorce. In some states, there is a waiting period before a couple can legally separate by no-fault divorce. This causes some couples to go through with a traditional fault divorce in order to expedite the process.

A fault divorce is only allowed to occur if one of the spouses is able to prove that they have adequate grounds to file for the divorce. These grounds vary from state to state but there are a few commonalities that you will find in each state. These include an addiction to drugs, alcohol, or gambling, an incurable mental illness, and the conviction of a crime. Some of the common reasons why a couple may get a fault divorce include adultery (one of the spouses engaging in an extramarital affair), desertion (one spouse abandoning the other for an extended period of time, either physically or emotionally), and physical or emotional abuse (one spouse abusing the other with physical violence or emotional or psychological abuse).

Most people have probably heard the terms annulment and divorce when considering the legal separation of a married couple. But these terms are not interchangeable. While some of the reasons for the dissolution of the marriage may be similar in both cases, these two forms of separation are quite different. If you are considering an annulment or a divorce, make sure you understand your rights and are properly represented by coming to Yardley Law.


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