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Annulment vs. Divorce: What are the Differences?

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When it comes to terminating a marriage, many people get confused between annulment and divorce. Both have the same effect, ending the relationship. 

However, in reality, both are two different terms used to mean two different conditions. With a divorce, you will still be recognized as married. While, with an annulment, the couple will be treated as if the marriage never took place.

Sounds confusing?

This article explores all the legal differences between Annulment vs. Divorce, which every couple must know beforehand while appealing for one. Each of them is described separately, along with a comparison table added at the end for your better understanding. 

Without further ado, let’s begin the discussion:

So, What is an Annulment?

An annulment is a legal procedure following which a marriage between spouses is considered invalid by law, depending on the state’s laws. And when a couple annuls their marriage, it gets terminated right away.

In other words, although they got married, it is deemed as if they never got married in the first place. That is, the marriage is technically non-existent. However, the marriage records remain on the papers even if the marriage is cancelled.

When to Get an Annulment?

Unlike divorce, the requirements to get an annulment are quite different. In fact, one of the very reasons for annulments is that they get accepted only under certain conditions. 

It includes the following:

  • The wedding occurred through fraud or coercion. For instance, you got married to another person, etc.
  • One spouse cannot have children, and s/he hides this huge fact and keep lying about it, despite knowing the entire truth.
  • One of the spouses was already married to someone else.
  • You got married to the person only because you or any of your loved ones were under threat.
  • One or both spouses were underage at the time of marriage.
  • There was no physical intimacy between the couples due to the physical inability of one of them.
  • One of the spouses was not in the right state of mind while the marriage took place, such as they were under the influence of alcohol or drugs or suffering from any mental disorder.
  • Both spouses are too closely related to each other to qualify to get married to each other.

Is There Any Time Limit for Annulments?

Most annulments occur within the first three years of marriage. However, most states don’t have a statute of limitations with a specific timeframe for when you can file. As a result, you can get it annulled and obtain recognition anytime. 

But, as a thumb rule, make sure to verify with the laws of your states, as they tend to vary from state to state.

Hearing for an Annulment

If one party appeals for a petition for a marriage annulment, the other party must respond to it. In case one of the spouses doesn’t give consent to get it annulled, then the court will hold a trial to arrive at a verdict on whether the marriage was valid or not when the spouses tied the knot.

Common Annulment Outcomes

As there are several criteria you must fulfill to qualify for an annulment, there is no guarantee whether a judge will grant one. So, in case you fail to obtain a marriage annulment, you must file an appeal for divorce in court.

On the other hand, if the court passes the verdict in your favour and grants the annulment, your marriage will be considered void right from that instant. However, there is some significant entanglement that impacts both spouses.

Below are some instances to consider:

Prenups and Postnups

As prenuptial and postnuptial contracts are applicable to a marriage, having an annulment erases its validity along with other relevant obligations.

Property and Finances

In terms of property and finances, the court takes the final call on whether you are entitled to any of them or not. Unlike divorce, annulments have high standards which are more difficult to fulfill compared to a traditional divorce. And thus take less time as there is almost little or no time spent in dividing the property and finances.

Children

Any children born from an annulled marriage are considered legitimate. And in case the parents split up, they can always apply for child custody and support following the standard rules.

What is a Divorce?

Divorce is a legal and formal procedure with the help of which a marriage gets terminated by law. A divorce solves all marriage-related issues, such as the division of assets and parties, spousal maintenance, child custody and support, etc. 

However, as each state follows their own rules and regulations, before appealing for one, make sure to know how and when you can appeal for one.

Grounds for Getting a Divorce

The Divorce Act is applicable to all kinds of divorces in Canada, whether you are legally married or not. However, in case you want to get a divorce under the Divorce Act, you must show that your relationship has been broken down. 

Here is a list of common grounds following which you can appeal for a divorce in Canada:

  • You and your spouses have lived separated from each other for at least 1 year or more
  • One of the spouses has committed adultery which the other one cannot forgive or approve of.
  • Domestic abuse – one of the spouses has been mentally or physically abusive to the other.

Waiting Phases for Divorce

Although there is no time limit to being separated, divorce never happens automatically. And you still remain married to each other until the court grants it. 

But, as a basic rule, the spouses must live separately for at least 1 year or more before the divorce is finalized. However, you can fasten the process by showing evidence of adultery, physical/mental cruelty, etc.

Read More: How Long Does It Take to Get Divorce in Canada

Common Divorce Outcomes

Divorce is a legal termination of the marriage. And unlike the annulment, it doesn’t invalidate the marriage. Instead, it totally ends the relationship once and for all.

As the entire process is complicated and comes with several bindings, the divorce solves the followings issues whenever a petition is filed:

Property Division

In case of a divorce, the court recognizes the marriage as a legal one, and thus the judge distributes all the marital property and debts if the couple couldn’t mutually agree or there are no prenups included.

Spousal Maintenance (Alimony)

If a spouse is eligible to pay spousal support to the other one, it is their legal obligation to pay it on due time. Failure to do so can ultimately result in varied punishments as per the state’s laws.

Divorce negotiations vs going to trial

Divorce cases can be solved through negotiation or mediation. This kind of divorce takes less time to resolve compared to contested ones. 

However, if a couple cannot mutually arrive at a conclusion (contested divorce), then the case will ultimately go to trial, where the final call will be taken by the court. 

Both parties must comply with the court’s decision, such as, child custody, spousal support, division of ascites and properties, etc.

Comparison Table between Annulment vs. Divorce

Still, have confusion about annulment vs. divorce? Have a quick go through the below comparison table to get it cleared up right away:

Annulment Divorce
Waiting phases Can be immediately allowed Need to stay 1 year or more apart, depending on the laws of the states
Marriage existent No Yes
Property Divison No Yes
Spousal Support No Yes (if eligible)
Difficulty of legal qualification High Comparvlety low
Grounds Needs to be specific Not required (except for no-fault divorces)
Marital status Single/unmarried Divorced
Is witness/proof needed? Yes Not needed (unless no-fault divorce)

 

Conclusion

Both divorce and annulments are legal procedures associated with marriage. And are somehow complicated, especially for a normal person with no basic knowledge of laws.

Hence, if you are pursuing an official termination of your marriage, the smartest move is to take legal support from an experienced lawyer. From guiding you in the right direction to lessening the burden off your shoulder, they can play quite a crucial role in this most challenging phase of life.

That’s all from the detailed discussion regarding Annulment vs. Divorce.

FAQs

How long can you be married and still get an annulment?

In Canada, your marriage cannot be annulled just because you have been married for a short time. However, if you have been married for three years or less and the wedding took place based on unfair means, it can get annulled anytime.

Which is faster, divorce or annulment?

The answer is divorce. Though both procedures terminate an existing marriage, divorce is comparatively faster compared to annulment in most cases. As with annulment, the marriage gets formally declared invalid, requiring several instances to qualify and prove.

Can You Get an Annulment After 10 Years of Marriage?

Usually, annulments result in a shorter form of marriage. However, there are exceptions to all situations. Meaning, you can get an annulment even after 10 years of marriage, only if the marriage took place based on illegal means, is fraudulent, lacks the orginal validity, etc.

Is a Dissolution of Marriage the Same as an Annulment?

No, they are not particularly the same. The dissolution of marriage refers to the ending of a valid marriage, while annulment means the ending of an invalid marriage.

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