Popular culture has made annulments out to look like an emergency exit option after marriage — a get-out-of-jail-free card if you will. In reality, an annulment is only an option in certain circumstances and much different than a divorce.
Here’s when it makes sense to get an annulment over a divorce.
When a marriage is invalid
An annulment isn’t the same as a divorce because rather than ending a marriage, it proves that the marriage was not valid in the first place. If you entered into a marriage in which one of the following is true, your marriage is not legally valid and can be disproved through the annulment process:
- Fraud — one spouse was deceptive about a factor that is essential to the marriage, such as their true identity, the ability to have children, their citizenship status, already having children, etc.
- Underage — One spouse was under the age of 16 at the time of the marriage or one spouse was between the ages of 16 and 18 and did not gain parental consent.
- Incest— Including step and adopted relationships.
- Lack of consent — One spouse did not have the mental capacity to agree to the marriage. This could include if one spouse was under the influence of alcohol or another impairing substance, clinically insane or mentally handicapped.
- Bigamy — One spouse was already married at the time of the marriage.
- Duress — One spouse was forced to agree to the marriage due to threats or violence
The results of an annulment
Because an annulment proves that a marriage was not valid, the process does not mimic a divorce. You won’t need to split your shared assets through property division, because your assets were never legally shared in the first place.
If a child was born during the marriage or 300 days after the marriage was annulled, the father’s paternity will be presumed by the courts. This will require that one parent pays child support and lends each parent custody rights.
Benefits of annulment
If your marriage is invalid according to the qualifying list above, an annulment is a great alternative to end a marriage quickly and inexpensively. Ending a marriage on the grounds of annulment, if applicable, also means you won’t need to go to court or split any assets you purchased following the marriage.
In most cases, it’s wise to seek an annulment as soon as possible after realizing or discovering a marriage is invalid.