Understanding the Difference Between Divorce vs. Annulment By Robert L. Froerer on May 14, 2022

A divorce document and a penDivorce is the legal ending of a marriage, and while it’s not the happy ending many people dream of when they get married, it can help people find a path to new beginnings and new happiness.

In addition to divorce, marriages may also be ended through annulment. At Froerer & Miles, our divorce and family law attorneys, serving Ogden, UT, Layton, UT, and surrounding areas, provide clients guidance when facing divorce versus annulment. Although both divorce and annulment end marriage, there are some key differences that we’ll consider in this blog post.

How Are Divorce and Annulment Different?

Both divorce and annulment are used to end a marriage but they do so in different ways. Divorce is a remedy open to all married couples; it ends the marriage while still acknowledging that the marriage existed. 

Annulment, on the other hand, ends the marriage by essentially erasing it and treating it as though it never existed.

While divorce is an option for any married couple who wishes to dissolve their marriage, annulments are not. In order to have the marriage annulled, certain legal or religious criteria must be met.

To further understand the difference between divorce and annulment, it helps to understand the two different types of annulments, civil and religious, and when each would be used instead of divorce.

Civil Annulments

Civil annulments are granted by the court and make it possible to end a marriage and treat it as if it never occurred in certain circumstances. For example, if a spouse misrepresented themselves or the marriage was somehow not entered truthfully. 

Some reasons an annulment may be granted include:

  • Concealment: One of the spouses kept important information from the other spouse such as an arrest record.
  • Fraud: A marriage may be annulled for fraud if one of the spouses purposely lied about something important to the marriage, like already having children or previously being married.
  • Lack of consent: If one of the spouses was forced into marriage or did not have the mental capacity to enter their marriage, it may be annulled.
  • Certain misunderstandings: Couples may enter marriage to later discover they had a misunderstanding about something important to the marriage. This most often relates to whether or not a spouse wants children.

Religious Annulments 

Religious annulments are not decided by the courts but rather by a religious authority. Accordingly, the criteria for a religious annulment depends on the religion. For example, the Catholic Church may grant an annulment if they find a lack of honesty in the marriage, a lack of maturity, or other reason they find adequate.

Dividing Assets and Determining Child Custody

If an annulment treats the marriage as if it never existed, many may wonder what that means for the division of property and child custody. Generally, annulments happen early in a marriage so dividing property and determining child custody are not typically a problem. 

However, if the marriage lasted long enough to require the division of assets or the couple had children, then those decisions would be made similar to how they are made in divorce with the exception that property may be solely given to the spouse it is titled to if the title is under one name. 

It should also be noted that children born during the marriage are not considered illegitimate if the marriage is annulled. Custody of the children and child support matters will need to be decided just as they are in divorce proceedings.

Schedule a Consultation

For more information about divorce versus annulment, or to find out which is right for your needs, please contact us or call our Ogden law firm at (801) 621-2690 to schedule a consultation.

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Froerer & Miles

The attorneys at Froerer & Miles have successfully represented clients in a wide range of practice areas since 1959. Our team of attorneys can protect your best interests in matters related to:

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