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What is the Difference Between Annulment and Divorce?

Posted by Stephen McDonough | May 26, 2016 | 0 Comments

Divorce scrabble tiles
Divorce isn’t the only option when it comes to ending a marriage.

Sometimes a marriage ending can be the best thing for a couple, and divorce or getting an annulment may be a topic of discussion. Both options will end a marriage but there is a difference between annulment and divorce.

What's the difference and how do you decide what route to go when ending a union? We've gathered some information to help you with this process.

Annulment vs. Divorce

The main difference between a divorce and an annulment is that not every marriage will qualify for an annulment. There have to be certain qualifications that are met for an annulment to be able to take place.

One common misconception is the length of time that a couple has been married will determine whether or not the marriage qualifies for an annulment. This is completely untrue. Annulments are only granted when the marriage is void or voidable.

Filing Processes

Filing for a divorce can be done whether only one party desires it or both parties do. In either case, a document must be filed with the court and then it will be brought in front of a judge. Some states and jurisdictions require a waiting period before a divorce will be granted—especially if there are children or significant assets involved.

With an annulment, the filing process will vary depending on whether it is a religious or civil annulment. In Massachusetts, you will have to file a Complaint for Annulment in the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court. The process is similar to a divorce but does require more qualifications so you may not be eligible.

How Do You Choose Which is Right for You?

This is a personal decision for you and your soon-to-be ex. A divorce may be the only option because annulments are very specific in their eligibility requirements. In the eyes of the law, if you are granted an annulment your marriage never legally happened. You and your ex can legally say you were never married. The same can not be said if you get a divorce.

It can be difficult to qualify for an annulment. In many cases, a divorce may be the only option. Talking to a lawyer about your situation can help you decide which option is best for you.

It's important to note that a legal annulment is different than a religious annulment. The courts have their own qualifications to get an annulment and churches will have their own rules granting annulments. If you need to get a religious annulment, you should speak with your church leaders on how to proceed.

Annulments in Massachusetts: What You Need to Know

Each state (and even certain locales) will have different regulations when it comes to divorces and annulments. For instance, in the state of Massachusetts, you must be able to prove that your marriage is void or voidable to get an annulment. Some of the reasons include:

  • One party was already married to someone else
  • You married a close relative
  • One of the spouses did not have the mental capacity to consent at the time
  • One of the spouses is not physically capable of intercourse
  • One or more of the spouses isn't old enough to marry
  • There was fraud involved in getting married

You don't have to work through the divorce or annulment process alone. If you would like to discuss your situation with a caring, knowledgeable expert, reach out to us at Next Phase Legal. We are happy to work with you every step of the way.

About the Author

Stephen McDonough

Stephen works closely with clients facing divorce or other family conflict. He is a certified mediator through the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation, a designation that only about 11% of mediators have obtained. In addition to providing mediation services, Stephen regularly appears in...

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