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

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Marriage annulment, like divorce, is the process of ending a marriage. However, while divorce ends a legitimate marriage, an annulment can dissolve 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.

What Is Marriage Annulment? 

A marriage annulment is a process that nullifies or dissolves a marriage. 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 terminates a supposedly valid marriage. This happens on the grounds that the marriage lacks an aspect that is necessary for a union.

On the other hand, civil marriage annulment voids a marriage. However, at least one spouse has to prove that the marriage was invalid since the beginning. Next, we tell you on what grounds a partner or spouse 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 spouses 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.

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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 one of the spouses 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 can be nullified because blood relatives cannot 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..

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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.

How To Get An Annulment? 

One or both spouses can apply for an annulment.

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The procedure for 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.

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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.

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

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

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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).

Marriage annulment is the legal way to declare 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.

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.’


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sanjana lagudu

Sanjana did her graduation in Pharmacy from Andhra University and post graduation in management from GITAM Institute of Management. It was during her first job, she recognized her skills in writing and began working as a freelance writer. Later, she completely moved into content writing and began working as a full-time content writer. Sanjana's articles in MomJunction cover topics related to...
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Dr. Carlos Juan Carmona-Goyena

(PhD (Counseling Psychology))
Dr. Carlos Juan Carmona-Goyena is a board licensed therapist in the USA and Puerto Rico with a specialty in couples, families, and relationships. Dr. Carlos possesses a PhD in Counseling Psychology granted at the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico. His two-decade professional experience also includes scientific research in family emotional and relational processes and its effect on psychological functioning. Dr....
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