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How is an Annulment Different From a Divorce?

By February 28, 2012July 21st, 2023Amy Hoch Hogenson Featured, Annulment, Divorce

By Amy Hoch Hogenson

Recently, the filing of an annulment made headlines, when Kim Kardasian’s soon to be ex-husband, basketball player Kris Humphries, countered her divorce petition filing, by filing one of his own for annulment. An annulment in the strict “legal sense” is a legal procedure for declaring a marriage null and void. In some instances, an annulment is considered by a party as an alternative to a divorce. In deciding whether an annulment is an option for you, it is important to understand what annulment is, the basis upon which you can file, whether the bases apply to your situation, and what the end result will be.

What are the grounds for filing an annulment? An individual can file for an annulment based on several grounds, including bigamy, incest, fraud, insanity, incompetence, and mental disability. Certainly from a celebrity stand-point there have been many that have used fraud as their basis for filing (Renee Zellweger, Ali Landry and Kris Humphries) while others have simply claimed incompetence or insanity (Britney Spears and Jason Alexander are well known for these claims).

The most familiar grounds for most annulments are fraud or incompetence.

Instances of fraud allegations frequently deal with a person’s purported willingness or unwillingness to have children, misrepresented history regarding sexual experience, drug use or alcohol use, and in some instances financial condition. The defense of incompetence however is usually used when the decision to marry and theact of marriage occurred while under the influence of mind altering substances. Note that this differs from divorce, depending on whether or not a state is a ‘no-fault’ state, where allegations of infidelity, excessive drug or alcohol use, and physical, mental or financial abuse after the marriage has occurred may be made.

How does an annulment work? Once granted, an annulment will act “retroactively” so that in the eyes of the law an annulled marriage legally will have never existed. In contrast in a divorce, the marriage existed and the “marriage contract” was dissolved. The result in an annulment is that everything you had prior to the marriage is yours and income you earned during the annulled marriage is considered separate and yours. Thus it works to protect any income earned or asset obtained during the “marriage” so that they remain separate and not subject to division by the court. If the marriage is short lived and there are any earnings from any income source, an annulment would protect an individual better than a divorce. However, it will protect the other party’s income sources as well.

On average, if there is a little debate between the parties about the facts, an annulment will take less time and cost less money than a divorce. Unfortunately, an annulment is only a viable option in rare instances. The majority of people who have been married will need to file for a divorce.


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