What is an annulment and how is it different than a divorce?
Divorce and annulment both end a marriage.
In the eyes of the court, a divorce says that a legitimate marriage has ended. An annulment says that the marriage never existed.
Requirements for qualifying for an annulment are much more restrictive than they are for divorce.
What qualifies the marriage for an annulment?
Utah Code 30-1-17 says the following are grounds for annulment:
- One person was married to someone else, including if that person’s divorce decree was not yet final.
- One person was under 18 years old and did not marry legally before May 14, 2019.
- For marriages after May 14, 2019, one person was 16 or 17 years old and did not obtain consent from a parent or guardian and the prior authorization of the juvenile court.
- The marriage was between close relatives (such as siblings) who are not permitted to marry.
Even when an annulment is granted, child custody and dividing of property will be handled in the same way they would in a divorce. Many people ask about annulment for marriages of a very short duration. However, length of marriage is not grounds for an annulment.
Annulment is harder to qualify for and results in largely the same outcomes as divorce. So why might you consider an annulment over a divorce?
The potential pros of annulment
Getting an annulment may be advantageous to you if, for example, you had an expensive piece of property. The court can decide that since the marriage was not valid, the other party has no right to that piece of property. The same is generally true for all debts. Whatever debts each party brought into the marriage, they will generally be solely responsible to repay. When it comes to money and property, an annulment usually means that both parties go back to living as they would have if they had stayed single and never known each other.
Depending on how you handled your finances during the marriage, or other facts, could result in an equitable division instead of assigning the entire debt or asset to one party.
A divorce can be achieved without any fault to either side. An annulment requires you to prove some kind of grounds, which could include fault. For instance, if your spouse was a convicted felon for some kind of violent behavior, and you could prove that you could not have reasonably found out about that, that could be fraud that would lead to an annulment. A person who fraudulently induced you to marry them may become responsible for attorney fees and spousal support after the dissolution of the marriage.
If you believe your marriage will qualify for an annulment, reach out to an experienced family law attorney. Even if you don’t qualify for an annulment, a divorce will still get you the relief you need, and may end up being a cheaper option in the long run.
Do not lose hope. Although whatever has brought you to ask these questions is likely heartbreaking and traumatic, you can move on and have a good life. Seek the right help.