How Does an Annulment Work?

By Maggie Hira

Annulment vs. Divorce

An annulment is a term that signifies the official nullification of a marriage. It's also known as a decree to nullify. It differs from a divorce because instead of legally ending a marriage, the judge in an annulment case certifies that the marriage never legally existed. In the event of an annulment, assets or marital property are usually not divided between the parties, unlike in a divorce where property and debts are divided unless stated otherwise in a prenuptial agreement. However, if children are involved, custody and child support must be determined just as in a divorce. Children from an annuled marriage are considered legitimate.

How It Works

An annulment must be granted in court by an officiating judge. An annulment is usually granted in cases that involve underage marriage without consent, bigamy, insanity, incest, forced consent or fraud. Examples of fraud include any type of concealment of a criminal history, sexually transmitted disease or any other type of damaging lie. Incurable impotence which results in an inability to consummate the marriage is also grounds for an annulment, particularly if the impotence is kept a secret prior to the marriage. A person seeking an annulment must have proof of any one of these circumstances and present it before a judge for an annulment to be taken into consideration.

Tips and Warnings

Annulments may not be as complicated as a divorce, but it is still recommended that a person seek the advice of an attorney who specializes in such matters. The process can be daunting and exhausting if approached without any support. Legal fees are another factor. An annulment can be contested by either party, which is why it is important to have proof of the grounds for the annulment. Infidelity, abandonment and abuse are not grounds for annulment.