What is the Difference Between a Divorce and an Annulment?

If you have decided to end your marriage and have thrown in the towel and don't want a legal separation you have two legal options: divorce and annulment. There are many misconceptions about getting an annulment versus getting a divorce.

Divorce dissolves, terminates, ends a legally valid marriage.

Annulment erases a marriage by declaring the marriage null and void and that the union was never legally valid. However, although the marriage is erased, the marriage records remain on file.

Note: A religious annulment is not a legal dissolution of a civil marriage.

A divorce ends a legal marriage and declares the husband and wife to be single again.

An annulment ends a marriage that the parties believe shouldn't have happened because of unknown facts (a voidable marriage) or because the marriage wasn't legal to begin with (a void marriage) because it broke the law such as bigamy, incest, etc.

Duane L. Coker: "An annulment just turns back time so that the act of marriage never happened."
Source: Duane L. Coker. "What is the Difference Between an Annulment and a Divorce?" DentonTexasDivorce.com. 1/04/2012.
"The main benefit of annulment is the law treats the marriage as if it never existed. It's over, and there are no further issues to deal with. Divorce, on the other hand, may mean involvement with your ex-spouse for years to come on issues such as support, property division and raising children ... Annulment isn't for everyone. Only a small percentage of those who are married can even qualify for one."
Source: "Can This Marriage be Annulled?" Lawyers.com.
"When it comes to finances, the difference is stark ... When a marriage is annulled, the courts usually try to restore each party to his or her original financial state before the marriage occurred."
Source: "Annulment vs. Divorce: The Financial Differences." Mainstreet.com. 2/12/2009.
Monica Cameron: "One common misconception is the length of time that a couple has been married determines whether or not the marriage qualifies for an annulment. This is completely untrue. Annulments are only granted when the marriage is void or one spouse misled the other spouse regarding a material fact prior to the marriage."
Source: Monica Cameron. "Common Questions and Misconceptions About Divorce." VentureStreet.com.
Kathy Higby: "Annulments are granted based upon very limited statutory grounds such as fraud, duress, mental incapacity (intoxication), failure to consummate and incidents which involve prohibited marriages such as bigamy or close blood relatives. The length of the marriage is irrelevant when it comes to annulments."
Source: Kathy A. Higby. "Common Misconceptions About Colorado Family Law." HigbyLaw.com.
Mike Broemmel: "One step to consider before you commence an annulment case is retaining a lawyer. The reality is that annulment laws and procedures are complex. Your interests likely are best protected through representation by an experienced attorney. The American Bar Association maintains consumer resources to aid you in locating an attorney in your area."
Source: Mike Broemmel. "Steps For Getting An Annulment." LiveStrong.com. 6/30/2010.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: This text should not be regarded as legal advice. Consult an attorney familiar with marriage and family law and your own personal circumstances for legal advice regarding civil annulments.

Differences Between Annulments and Divorces

Marriage ExistedNoYes
Short Time to File - 1-2 YearsYes - UsuallyNo
Children Considered LegitimateYesYes
Division of PropertyNoYes
Difficulty Level LegallyYes - HighUsually No
Grounds SpecificYesNo
Marital Status Result AfterwardsSingle or UnmarriedDivorced
Witness and Proof RequiredYesNo