Marriage Annulment: What It Is & How It Differs From A Divorce

Marriage annulment, like divorce, is the legitimacy of ending a marriage. However, while divorce ends legitimate weddings, an annulment can lead to the dissolution of invalid ones too. Marriage annulment enables you to declare that the wedding did not take place.

However, not all marriages can be annulled. Read the post to understand more about marriage annulment and the grounds required to do so.

In This Article

What Is Marriage Annulment? 

A marriage annulment is a process that nullifies or dissolves a marriage or matrimony and the vows binding it. That is, there was no marriage at all in the eyes of the law. When the marriage didn’t happen, there is no need to have an annulment decree. However, you can go to a court and get it for future reference.

A marriage annulment can be a civil annulment or a religious annulment. In a religious annulment, the church doesn’t nullify a marriage but termination of a supposedly valid marriage is allowed. This happens on the grounds that the marriage lacks an aspect that is necessary for unions.

On the other hand, civil marriage annulment voids a marriage. However, at least one spouse has to prove that the matrimonial ceremony was invalid from the beginning. Next, we tell you on what grounds partners or spouses can obtain an annulment of marriage.

What Are The Grounds To Obtain An Annulment? 

The grounds to prove that marriage is either voidable or void may differ from one state to another. For instance, in Alabama, the grounds for annulment include the age of one of the individuals being under 16, incest, or bigamy. While in New Jersey, the grounds are incest, consent under the influence of drugs or alcohol, impotency, fraud, and previously undissolved marriage.

In general, a few common factors that could lead to annulment are discussed next.

1. Underage

If one or both the husband and wife were underage when they got married, then the marriage can be annulled. However, the age limit varies from one state to another in the US. In a few states such as Indiana, Minnesota, and New Jersey, it is 16. But in New York and Texas, it is 17, while it is 18 in Florida, Oregon, and Virginia. The age limit may also change from time to time, so you should check the latest updates before applying for an annulment.

2. Bigamy 

Bigamy is also a crime.

Image: Shutterstock

When a person is already married legally but is trying to marry again, it is called bigamy, which is also a crime. If it is discovered that either the bride or the groom was already married and has disclosed the information, then the marriage can be made void.

3. Fraud or misrepresentation

When one of the spouses hides any essential information or misrepresents some facts or commits fraud to get into marriage, it serves as a ground to annul a marriage. Some examples include the intent of marriage is only to have a green card, asserting that they want children when they cannot, disclosing a wrong identity to enter marriage, or entering into a sham marriage to gain some benefit.

4. Spouses in close relation

When the spouses are found to be closely related or are blood relatives, then the marriage contract can be nullified because it is unlawful for blood relatives to marry in some states. These void relationships include first and second cousins, half or whole siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, and grandchildren. However, the rules differ from one state to another. For instance, some states accept first cousin marriages, while some don’t.

5. Unsound mind

If any of the spouses were not in the right senses while marrying, it means their consent was not valid. It could be either due to the influence of drugs or alcohol or due to mental incompetence. In such a case, the marriage is considered void and counts as grounds for a marriage annulment.

6. Others

Forced consent is another ground for annulment..

Image: IStock

Forced consent, no parental consent, impotency, physical impairment, and misunderstandings are a few other grounds based on which a marriage can be considered void and annulled.

protip_icon Point to consider
Other conditions in which a marriage may be considered void and annulled include having a sexually transmitted disease (STD) at the time of marriage and the spouse undergoing gender transition (3).

How To Get An Annulment? 

One or both spouses can apply for an annulment.

Image: IStock

The procedure for contracting a marriage annulment is standard and quite similar to that of a divorce. It is a simple process that involves filing documents and petitions. Here are a few points that you should know about the marriage annulment process.

  • One or both spouses can apply for an annulment. It is essential to apply to the right court, which is either a family court or a Superior Court of Justice.
  • The applicants should meet the state residency requirements of the place where they live.
  • Once the annulment request is filed, a judge will be assigned to the case. If the request is mutual, then the court will grant the marriage annulment request. But if one spouse has filed and the other person objects, then there will be a hearing. The judge will check the arguments and evidence submitted by both the spouses and will decide whether the marriage can be annulled or not.
  • If there are assets or properties involved in the marriage, or there is a child, then the states have their own rules and laws that divide the assets and guide on support and child custody.

Ideally, there is no need for an attorney for a marriage annulment. But if you are not sure about the process and need help with the documentation and filing, you can approach a local attorney.

What Are The Differences Between Annulment And Divorce? 

There is no alimony after the annulment.

Image: IStock

Annulment and divorce are both ways to end a marriage. But there are several differences between them.

  • A divorce ends a legally valid marriage, whereas an annulment is a legal way to declare a marriage as null and void.
  • For a divorce, the couple has to wait for a specific period, say for a year (varies from state to state) before they are legally separated. But there are no such restrictions to nullify a marriage when both the spouses want it.
  • There could be a possibility of alimony in the case of divorce, but there is no alimony after the annulment. Also, there is a discussion on assets, property, profits, and spousal support after a divorce. But after an annulment, the spouses get only what they had before marriage.
  • Another technical difference between a divorce and an annulment is that a person is considered ‘divorced’ after the divorce. And after the annulment, they are ‘single’ or ‘unmarried.’

Overall, an annulment is not a complicated procedure as divorce could be. Nonetheless, even a marriage annulment procedure has its advantages and disadvantages.

protip_icon Did you know?
Before the annulment order becomes final, one cannot proceed with a second marriage.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Marriage Annulment vis-à-vis Divorce? 

You can be open to a new relationship without any burden.

Image: IStock

Divorce and annulment are given in two totally different scenarios. However, when compared to divorce, here are some pros and cons of marriage annulment.


  • There is no tag of ‘divorced’ in your marital status. You can be open to a new relationship without any burden on your shoulders.
  • The waiting period is pretty short in the case of a marriage annulment in comparison to divorce and other legal proceedings.
  • It is easy to apply, and the proceedings are quick.
  • No minimum state residency is required for a marriage annulment.


  • The individual has no rights on their spouse’s property after marriage annulment.
  • There is no spousal support or alimony in an annulment case.
  • If there is any hearing, both spouses have to be present to give the testimony.
  • Sometimes, it could be difficult to get proof of marriage annulment.

What Does It Mean When Annulment Is Denied?

The annulment is denied when the marriage has not been proven void or voidable. If the marriage annulment is denied, you may have to apply for a divorce.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why would someone want an annulment?

Fraud, bigamy, an unconsummated marriage, incest, and incompetent or underage spouse are some reasons for annulment. A marriage may be annulled on the grounds of misinformation about something fundamental by a spouse or if the marriage was coerced (1).

2. Is it difficult to get an annulment?

An annulment may be more difficult to obtain compared to divorce from a procedural point of view. You may need to prove many legal elements to get an annulment (2).

3. How much does it cost to get an annulment?

The cost of a marriage annulment can vary depending on various factors, such as the state where the annulment is being sought, the complexity of the case, and whether or not attorneys represent the parties. Filing an annulment may cost from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Additionally, some states require filing fees, which can add to the annulment cost. For example, in Massachusetts, the cost of filing an annulment is $220 (3). It is recommended to check with the court in your state or consult a family law attorney to get an estimate of the cost of an annulment in your specific case.

4. Can you remarry after an annulment?

Yes, you can remarry after an annulment. An annulment is a legal process that ends a marriage and declares it null and void as if it never existed. After an annulment, both parties are free to remarry as long as there are no legal restrictions.However, getting an annulment and its prerequisites differ by jurisdiction; therefore, it is recommended to speak with an attorney for additional details.

Marriage annulment is the legal way for solemnizing a marriage null and void. The procedure is quite similar to a divorce, but both are conceptually and legally different. Underage, mental issues, couple being related, or bigamy may be the grounds for a marriage to be annulled. The court will allow a mutual request, but a hearing will be required if one party objects. One should check for the state-to-state differences before initiating the procedure. You can even consult a local attorney in case of doubts or confusion.

Infographic: How Marriage Annulment Differs From A Divorce

Marriage annulment and divorce are the legal procedures one will hear if a couple wishes to end their marriage. While both the terms have similar results, their effects on the couple and their lives differ. The infographic below highlights the differences between the two legal procedures for better understanding.

marriage annulment vs divorce (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Get high-quality PDF version by clicking below.

Download Infographic in PDF version Download Infographic
Download Infographic in PDF version

Key Pointers

  • The process of marriage annulment dissolves or invalidates a marriage.
  • A civil marriage annulment can be acquired if you or your spouse are underage or if either one is already married (bigamy).
  • Divorce terminates a legally valid marriage and makes you a ’divorcee,’ whereas a marriage annulment deems you as ‘single’ or ‘unmarried.’

Divorce and annulment are often confused for their legalities, which are two different processes towards ending a marriage. Watch the video to understand the fundamental difference between these two terms.


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.

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