What’s the Legal Difference Between Annulment and Divorce?

A marriage is a legal decree that may be dissolved in two ways: through a divorce or an annulment. While both procedures are binding in a court of law, it’s important to understand the legal differences between annulment and divorce.

For couples who are considering ending their union, the following is a brief recap of annulment vs. divorce.

Annulment declares the marriage void

An annulment is a legal decree that declares a marriage void, as if the union never existed or was never valid. Unlike a divorce, an annulment must be filed within a specific time frame from the date of the marriage certificate. Following an annulment, both parties are legally single and may be able to enter new relationships or marriages with another partner. During an annulment, the court does not factor in considerations for property or assets division, alimony or child support because the short-lived marriage is legally erased. Both partners keep the assets they had prior to the marriage.

The grounds for seeking an annulment are typically quite different than those of a divorce.  The court may grant an annulment for one of these reasons:

  • The marriage was not consummated due to impotence
  • The spouses were blood relatives or closely related
  • The marriage was the result of fraud, mental or physical incapacity
  • One or both of the spouses was legally underage
  • One or both of the spouses were in registered domestic partnership or already married when the marriage took place (bigamy).
  • The marriage was based on misrepresentation or intent to deceive
  • The marriage took place when one or both spouses were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Ground for seeking a divorce

Just like an annulment, divorce legally ends a marriage, giving both partners a single status. Divorce proceedings may take anywhere from two months to more than a year, as marital assets must be divided, and issues such as alimony and child support determined. In New Jersey and New York, spouses who are filing for divorce are required by law to equally distribute all marital assets and property.

Couples may file a “fault-based” or “no-fault” divorce, depending on what state they live in.

  • Fault-Based Divorce. In some states like New Jersey, spouses may file a fault-based divorce citing: domestic violence, mental or physical cruelty, abandonment, adultery, and/or alcohol or drug abuse. Judges generally won’t consider misconduct or “fault” when assessing how to divide up marital property; however, they may consider misconduct when determining how much alimony a spouse receives.
  • No-Fault Divorce. In a no-fault divorce, blame is not assigned to either spouse. The divorce filing may list reasons such as irreconcilable differences, loss of affection or irremediable breakdown.

Consult with family law attorneys

The dissolution of a marriage is never a pleasant process. If you’re in need of professional legal assistance in New York or New Jersey, contact the divorce attorneys at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, P.C. Established in 1975, our firm has vast experience in family and marital law, with a focus on attentive, compassionate support.

Arrange a private consultation by calling our toll-free number at (888) 624-4916.