Annulment in Marriage: How it Works vs. Divorce

Sadly, 50% of marriages end in divorce. However, sometimes they end so quickly that a couple opts for an annulment instead of divorce. If you think you might be a candidate, here’s how to get your marriage annulled:

  1. Use a lawyer or an online legal company to draft an annulment request.
  2. State laws vary on how long a couple can be married before requesting an annulment, but in general, plan to request the annulment as soon as possible following the ceremony; ideally within 6 months.
  3. File the documents with the court in your county
  4. Valid reasons for annulment include if one party was under age 14, if one or both parties were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the marriage, if the couple is blood-related, or if there are issues such as fraud, impotence, or mental illness.

And unlike a divorce, an annulment actually erases the marriage as if it never happened.

There are two ways to end a marriage: divorce and annulment. Divorce and annulment have similar purposes: to end a marriage. But they are also different.

Divorce is a court order to terminate a legal marriage. On the other hand, annulment is a legal ruling that declares a marriage null and void. Therefore, the union was never legally valid in the first place.

There are two types of annulment: civil and religious.

A civil annulment is an order by a judge to terminate the marriage. However, a religious annulment is an order by a church. Religious annulments do not guarantee that a judge will grant a civil annulment.

Additionally, it is essential to note that religious boards, particularly the Roman Catholic Church, may not accept a civil annulment.

get marriage annulled lg

What are the reasons you can get an annulment?

There are two significant reasons to get an annulment. The marriage has to be either “void or voidable”. It is important to note there is a distinct difference between both words.

According to available facts, a “void marriage” should never exist.

An example is one spouse finds out that the other has another marriage. Another example is the individuals realize they are related by blood. In any of these cases, an annulment is the only wise course.

A “voidable marriage” may be legal.

However, one or both spouses have brought forward reasons why the marriage should be annulled. They take the case to court, and a judge determines if the marriage is valid or not.

A court orders an annulment for limited circumstances. Individuals may seek an annulment for the following reasons:


It is not legal to be married to two individuals at the same time. For example, if a spouse was in a legal marriage at the time of the second wedding. The new marriage can qualify for annulment on bigamy grounds.

Underage marriage:

An annulment is the best way to go when one or both spouses were underage at the time of the marriage.

An underage spouse can file for annulment of marriage. However, an annulment is no longer valid when they continue to live together past the legal adult age. In some state laws, like Texas, minors at least 16 years of age can marry with parental consent.

Common-Law Marriage:

Common-law marriage allows the marriage of individuals under 18. However, since 2005, Pennsylvania law has stopped recognizing this, which makes any such marriage void. This may or may not apply in your state.

Mental incompetence:

A marriage can be annulled if one or both spouses are not mentally competent to make such decisions.

According to some state laws, individuals who got married while intoxicated can begin the annulment process within 60 days. However, they must provide witnesses to support their claims.

In addition, if one or both spouses do not have the mental capacity to understand the context of marriage, it can be annulled.


If one of the spouses (obviously the man typically) was declared medically impotent before marriage, this could be a basis for annulment if the other spouse were unaware.

However, if they were aware of the condition, then it does not qualify as an annulment.

ED is also easily treatable these days too making this one of the least likely reasons someone might request an annulment these days.


Fraud is a basis for a marriage annulment—for example, an alcoholic or drug addict who withheld such information from their intended spouse.

The spouse can file for an annulment when they discover after marriage. However, they may not claim marriage fraud if they already found out and still stayed in the marriage.


When the married couple is related, the marriage is void. Marriage to family members can be described as incestuous. It can lead to consanguinity and is frowned upon by the law.

Inability to consummate marriage:

Sex is a natural part of any relationship. And we covered impotence above. But if either party is unable or unwilling to have sex, it could be grounds for annulment as they aren’t able to consummate the marital relationship.

But I’m not talking about a singular incident where someone is just under the weather or doesn’t feel like it.

It’s more like you find out after the marriage that they don’t ever plan to have sex with you.

How long until a marriage cannot be annulled?

The time limits for marriage annulment are different in each state.

You can file for annulment at any time if there is no timeframe in the state. As stated earlier, you begin processing annulment within 60 days after marriage under the influence of a substance.

Colorado, for example, requires you to file for an annulment within six months of marriage based on intoxication, fraud, and substance abuse.

But in general, once you become aware of one of the valid reasons stated above, file for annulment as soon as possible.

Is annulment better than divorce?

Divorce and annulment are legal actions with the ultimate goal of ending a marriage.

One significant difference is that annulment invalidates a marriage while divorce declares the individuals legally single. Another difference is that no-fault states can grant a divorce without proof of any wrongdoings.

The legal grounds for divorce are different in each state. a fault divorce is usually due to infidelity, domestic abuse, violence, or spousal abandonment.

On the other hand, proof of fraud or illegality must be presented in annulment cases.

After a legal annulment, there is no issue of sharing marital property or debt because the marriage was not legal.

However, property division is a key interest for both parties in a divorce. This can be time-consuming and foster further bad blood between already estranged individuals. Therefore, regarding the division of property, annulment is the best.

Spousal support is another aspect that is ruled out in an annulment proceeding.

This is because annulment invalidates a recent marriage as if it never happened. Therefore, divorce may be a better alternative if you think spousal support is necessary. You should seek legal advice from family lawyers before taking action.

Suppose a case meets the requirements for annulment, and the court pronounces a decree of nullity immediately. However, a divorce case may take up to a year or two. Therefore, if you want to avoid lots of drama, you may want to consider annulment.

The result of annulment is like you were never married.

Therefore, your marital status is “single” or “unmarried.” In contrast, after divorce, an individual’s status is “divorced”.

Wives file for divorce about 80% of the time. But have you ever wondered if some women regret divorce after the fact?

There is a recent article dedicated to exploring this phenomenon. I get into the specifics of why women file so much more than men. But I also look at how often they regret it later and what percentage of women later try and reconcile.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Does an annulment make a child illegitimate?

No, annulment of marriage does not make a child illegitimate.

If a couple had children before the annulment process, they are responsible for the welfare of the minors. The children are free from the title “illegitimate”, which refers to those born outside marriage.

Similar to a divorce case, the court or state laws determine child custody and who pays for child support.

In some states, the court must determine the children’s parentage. However, this is not necessary for other states. After the annulment has been finalized, the state laws can determine custody and support requirements, just like in divorce proceedings.

Can you get an annulment without the other person?

Yes, you can get an annulment without the other person.

However, the person filing for the annulment has to bear the burden of proof. This is the responsibility to provide concrete evidence that legal action is indeed necessary.

Therefore, even in the other person’s absence, it is possible.

However, if you fail to present adequate evidence, there is a high chance that the annulment will be denied. This is similar to an individual seeking a fault-based divorce.

But if your spouse abandoned you and you don’t even know where they are, you do have options.

You can read a recent article navigating getting a fault-based divorce even when you cannot contact your spouse. I get into exactly what abandonment is, how long you have to go after being abandoned to file, and what steps to take.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

A common misconception is that a brief marriage is a valid ground for annulment. This could not be further from the truth. Instead, the terms of marriage have to be illegal or fraudulent to qualify for an annulment.


Marriage annulments are rare because they are often difficult to prove.

Only marriages under specific circumstances meet the criteria for being a void marriage or voidable. However, they are not impossible to achieve.

It is simply a different way to be single apart from via divorce. You may need to contact a family law attorney before filing for an annulment.

Now that you are single again, you may wonder how easy moving on will be.

I have a recent article about who moves on first; men or women. I not only share which tend to move on faster, but why, and if you aren’t ready to move on, what steps you can take to attract them back.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Image by Tumisu, please consider ☕ Thank you! ???? from Pixabay

Of course, I have to add that I am not a lawyer, nor do I know the laws in your state or country. I am, however, divorced (twice) and have recent experience going through one. However, my comments and articles should not be taken as legal or professional advice. If you need legal or professional advice you should consult a professional in your area.

Top Related Posts