Pros & Cons of Annulment Vs. Divorce

By Mike Broemmel

Updated July 21, 2017

Broken picture frame with married couple

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Reaching a juncture in your marital relationship at which you desire to dissolve the union with your spouse, you are likely to find yourself contemplating your options. Divorce certainly is an option available to you. In some states, you can obtain a legal separation. In all U.S. jurisdictions, annulment laws exist, as well. If you end up focusing on a divorce or an annulment, you need to weigh and balance the pros and cons of both proceedings.


The primary function of a divorce is to terminate a valid marriage, according to "Nolo's Essential Guide to Divorce" by Emily Doskow. The basic function of an annulment is to obtain a declaration that no valid marriage existed in the first place. Judges in both cases issue other orders to deal with issues like property division and custody of children.


The benefits of both types of proceedings include leaving the parties free to remarry. Divorce and annulment also structure the legal relationship between the parties at the conclusion of the actual judicial proceedings, according to the American Bar Association Section of Family Law.


A disadvantage of divorce is that obtaining this type of legal remedy may violate the tenants of your religion. Some religions significantly restrict an adherent's ability to continue involvement in formal activities. A disadvantage of annulment in many jurisdictions is that you cannot make a claim for alimony or spousal maintenance. The theory in these locations is that if there was no valid marriage in the first instance, a claim for maintenance or child support is a legal impossibility, according to ExpertLaw.


A variety of misconceptions exist about the pros and cons of annulment versus divorce. For example, a common misconception is that a negative aspect of an annulment case is that it must be filed shortly after a marriage. While this oftentimes happens, there is no legal requirement for a filing within that time frame. A recurring misconception associated with a divorce is that such a case takes a long time to resolve. In fact, a divorce case can wrap up rather quickly if the spouses reach agreement on the issues between them.

Expert Assistance

In order to maximize the benefits and minimize the disadvantages of either a divorce or annulment, retaining legal representation typically is a wise course. The American Bar Association maintains a selection of resources designed to assist you in finding the most appropriate, effective attorney for your needs in a divorce or annulment case.