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What Is an Annulment? | Explore Law Firms and Legal Advice

Not every marriage works out. Many people opt to get divorced, but some soon-to-be exes want an annulment.

An annulment occurs when a court rules that a marriage was never valid.

The most common reason cited for wanting an annulment is fraud and misrepresentation, according to the American Bar Association.

An annulment could happen if someone lied about having another life, a criminal record or infectious disease, according to the ABA.

What Is an Annulment?

An annulment means something was legally wrong with the marriage, according to the Judicial Branch of California’s “Self-Help Guide.” “If you get an annulment, it’s like your marriage never happened because it was never legal,” says the state government resource.

Annulments are rare and typically happen when an individual pursues something more defined than divorce. They may stem from a subset of situations where there would be a reason to not validate a marriage’s existence.

“(Those seeking) an annulment are people who want the marriage to never have occurred,” says Christine Rollins, professor of law at Saint Louis University.

In an annulment, exes still work through decisions involving property division, custody and child support. “All of those still happen as if you’re getting a divorce,” Rollins adds.

Why Would Someone Seek an Annulment?

Annulments require a legal reason. For example, one of the partners may have already been married to someone else at the time, called bigamy, or one of the partners may have been underage at the wedding.

Other situations can arise when couples discover that they’re genetically related and were perhaps unaware because one or both were born via sperm or egg donation or were adopted.

What Are Factors to Consider in an Annulment?

Think about how each state recognizes the differences between an annulment and divorce, Rollins says. She also notes that an individual should find out whether she or he would get alimony with an annulment. This might not be possible.

Most relationships that are going to end will land in the divorce category, Rollins says.

It’s important to note that people initiating an annulment will use the same kind of attorney they’d use for a divorce.

“It’s the same type of process. You would still contact a divorce attorney,” Rollins says. “In Missouri, it’s a cover sheet and you check off annulment instead of divorce. It’s procedural in nature, but you’re still going to go through all of the questions about division of assets and things.”

And it would be up to the court’s discretion whether to grant the annulment, Rollins adds. Annulments were more popular when people had to prove fault. Because no-fault divorce is available, most people opt for divorce.

Rollins says, “Now that every state in the union allows for a no-fault divorce, the need for an annulment has just dropped.”

Sarah Goldberg
Sarah Goldberg

Sarah is a seasoned financial market expert with a decade of experience. She's known for her analytical skills, attention to detail, and ability to communicate complex financial concepts. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Finance, is a licensed financial advisor, and enjoys reading and traveling in her free time.

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