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The Difference Between an Annulment and a Divorce

*The following piece was prompted by a random topic nudge.*

Some people might wish they could annul their marriages, but it doesn't quite work that way. A marriage can only be annulled under certain circumstances. Otherwise, one of the parties must initiate a full-on divorce.

The main difference between a divorce and an annulment is validity. Divorces are dissolutions of valid marriages, while annulments are legal "erasures" of invalid marriages. Eligibility for annulment has nothing to do with how long you've been married, how your spouse treated you, whether they committed adultery, whether you hate or love them, or whether you wish you'd never married them. It is what it is. The only grounds for annulment are as follows:

  • Both spouses were mentally incompetent when they married (must be proven by professionals).
  • The parties never consummated the marriage (not ever likely).
  • One or both spouses were underaged when they married.
  • One or both spouses were coerced or fraudulently led into the marriage (must be proven in court).
  • The spouses are closely related (ew).
  • One of the spouses was legally married when the marriage occurred. This is bigamy, and it would need to be proven, and the bigamous spouse would then need to spend some time in jail.

If none of the above situations is true, then, unfortunately, the parties would need to go through the legal process of a divorce, and their valid marriage would still remain on record as having existed at one time. In other words, it still existed, even if it only lasted for one day. Unfortunately, individuals can choose to end a bad marriage, but they don't get to choose whether they can have it erased. 

Sources: The law and being in a situation years ago when I once wished an annulment was an option but had to settle for a D.  

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