Divorce Vs. Annulment - What Is The Difference?

When you've entered into a marriage that was a mistake, divorce isn't your only option. We'll go over the situations where an annulment is a valid choice and how to get the help you need. The information provided here is for general information only and should not be used as legal advice.

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What Are The Ways To End A Marriage?

Method Description Benefits Drawbacks
Divorce Legally ends the marriage either through a divorce settlement agreement or through a judge's decision Divorce is final, and once it's over, both parties can remarry Can drag on for a long time and can be both mentally and emotionally draining
Annulment Marriage is deemed to be invalid and is treated like it never happened Both parties revert to their state prior to the marriage, dividing up assets is not required There are only a few circumstances under which an annulment will be granted
Legal Separation Both parties agree to a marriage separation agreement by which they stay legally married but live separately Allows the couple to continue taking advantage of health insurance or other benefits by staying legally married You're still married, so if you wish to remarry, you'll have to get divorced first and go through the entire divorce process

Am I Eligible For An Annulment?

Whether you can be granted an annulment depends on the state you live in. Each state has different laws on the subject, so make sure you do your research and find an attorney who can help you. Generally, annulments are only granted under specific circumstances that make the marriage invalid, and you have a set amount of time in which to file for annulment, so if you think you qualify, it's a good idea to act fast.

Common Justifications For Annulment

Reason Explanation
Bigamy When a person enters into a marriage while already being legally married
Polygamy When a person marries multiple partners at once, common in religious polygamy
Incest Marriage between blood relatives
Age of Consent Marriage with a person too young to consent
Unsound Mind Marriage with someone whose judgment is impaired such that they do not understand what is happening
Consent by Force Coercing someone into agreeing to a marriage
Fraud Tricking someone into marrying you by lying to them

States With The Highest and Lowest Divorce Rates

Based on 2015 data of divorces per 1,000 married women in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia.

Rank State Divorce Rate
1 Washington, D.C. 29.9
2 Wyoming 27.9
3 Nevada 25.7
4 Arkansas 25.3
5 Alaska 22.7
N/A US Average 16.9
47 New Jersey 12.9
48 Delaware 12.9
49 Rhode Island 12.6
50 Wisconsin 12.4
51 Hawaii 11.1

What Is A "No-Fault" Divorce?

A "No-fault" divorce simply means a divorce in which the parties do not need to offer grounds for divorce. In some countries, if one person wants to get divorced and the other doesn't, the person wishing to dissolve the marriage has to fight in court in order to be granted the divorce. A lot of people defend these traditions, often on religious grounds because they belong to faiths that oppose divorce, while others welcome the change to a no-fault system. In the United States, a no-fault divorce is a way to exit a marriage without the need for this kind of trial, and helps people move on more quickly. Some states are "True" no-fault states, meaning all divorces are treated as no-fault and the court does not take a position but merely dissolves the marital contract, while others are "optional" no-fault states, meaning you can file for a divorce based on "irreconcilable differences," but can also file for a divorce with cause. If you are looking to file for divorce, it's possible to do so without a prolonged court battle, although difficult discussions like child custody can become contentious regardless of whether both parties want to separate or not.

Which States Are True No-Fault States?

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
  • District of Columbia

Most Expensive States To Get A Divorce

Rank State Divorce Filing Fee Average Hourly Attorney Fee
1 California $435 $402
2 New Jersey $300 $365
3 Connecticut $350 $417
4 Florida $409 $326
5 Pennsylvania $361 $353

What Is Palimony?

The term "Palimony" refers to a form of alimony, or spousal support, granted to a partner in a dissolved relationship where the two parties were not married. The term gained prominence in the Marvin vs. Marvin case in California, and has been used to describe celebrity cases such as those of Clint Eastwood and Blake Griffin. The basic argument is that if one person, often the woman in the relationship, gives up her career in order to care for the home while the other partner, often the man in the relationship, becomes the sole breadwinner, then upon the dissolution of the relationship, support must be paid regardless of whether or not they are legally married. Palimony is uncommon and complicated, so it's best to consult an attorney if you think you qualify.

In Depth

You thought you'd found the love of your life, but now you're at each others' throats and you want out. Divorce can be a difficult, complicated process, and you may be looking for other options. You've heard the word "Annulment," but aren't quite sure what it means. Well never fear, because we can explain the difference and help you decide which is right for you.

Given the high percentage of marriages that end in divorce, you're probably aware of what they are. But you may not realize the monetary cost that goes with the emotional one. When you're married, anything you earn or acquire is a marital asset that must be divided. That means when you get divorced, you and your partner will have to sort through all you own and split it up, which can take a long time.

Some people try to head this off with prenuptial agreements, and those who don't can find themselves a lot lighter afterward. Mel Gibson and Rupert Murdoch lost fortunes because of a lack of a prenup. Murdoch learned his lesson, making his next marriage much easier to end.

Mel Gibson and Rupert Murdoch lost fortunes because of a lack of a prenup.

In addition, there's a ton of paperwork that must be done, so before you act, be sure to check out our full guide to filing for divorce. On this web page, you can find it below this video.

An annulment differs from a divorce in that it serves a different function. While a divorce signals two people ending a marriage, an annulment states that the marriage was never valid to begin with. It's easier to divide the assets because both parties revert back to their state prior to the marriage and have no marital assets.

However, you can't just ask for an annulment because you regret your marriage. Each state has specific rules regarding the reasons why a marriage can be annulled, and the time frame in which you can request an annulment.

Each state has specific rules regarding the reasons why a marriage can be annulled, and the time frame in which you can request an annulment.

One reason a marriage can be annulled is bigamy. It is only legal to be married to one person at a time, so if you enter into a marriage without getting divorced from your first partner, the second marriage is invalid. There are way more cases than you'd think of people who had not only two partners, but two entire families who didn't know about each other and were shocked when they found out the truth.

Another common reason for annulment is polygamy, the practice of marrying multiple partners at once. While once a common practice of the Mormon church, it has also been linked to mental, physical, and child abuse in cults and is illegal in all fifty states. While some defend the practice, those who eventually leave polygamous relationships are able to seek an annulment as the marriage is viewed as invalid.

An annulment can also be declared if the marriage is based on fraud. Take the case of Larry and Joy Farr, who were married for years and divorced. They then remarried after Larry told Joy he had a terminal illness and didn't want to die alone. When he lived, Joy filed for an annulment because she'd married him under false pretenses.

They then remarried after Larry told Joy he had a terminal illness and didn't want to die alone.

We aren't lawyers, and this isn't legal advice, but in general, it's a bad idea to fake a terminal illness. Each state has different rules regarding how and when you can be granted an annulment, so be sure to consult our full guide right here on this page. Check it out beneath this video.

When considering a divorce, it's also important to remember that once the divorce is finalized, that's it. You can remarry, but if you're emotionally not quite ready to call it quits, you have options. A legal separation agreement allows you to retain benefits such as health insurance or tax benefits without residing together, and can let a couple work out issues like spousal support, payment of debts, or other financial issues before the divorce proceedings.

And keep in mind that you don't have to be married in order for these issues to come up. Certain states allow for "Palimony," which is support paid by one party to another, similar to alimony, but among people who are not married. Academy Award-winning actor Lee Marvin lost a famous case that set a precedent for those who enter into a financially dependent relationship without being legally married. The point is, don't think these problems only come with being married.

And keep in mind that you don't have to be married in order for these issues to come up.

If you have difficult issues like these, don't try to handle them yourself. A good attorney can see if you qualify for an annulment or if divorce or legal separation is right for you. Be sure to read our full guide to filing for divorce. Get started now below this video.

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