What is the Difference Between a Divorce and an Annulment?

The Difference Between a Divorce and an Annulment

It is never easy or simple when two people decide to end a marriage. There are many mixed emotions and decisions that have to be made. Terminating a marriage is a choice that needs to be thought out, and it is important to educate yourself on your options.

The two most common ways to end a marriage are through a divorce or an annulment. Many people don’t know what an annulment is, or that it is a valid way to terminate a marriage.

So what is the legal difference between getting an annulment versus getting a divorce?


An annulment is a legal procedure that declares a marriage null and void. In most cases, an annulled marriage is considered to be invalid from the very beginning, like it never happened. However, some jurisdictions determine that the marriage is only void from the date of annulment. Overall, an annulment makes a void marriage or a voidable marriage null.

There is a difference between a void marriage and a voidable marriage.

In a void marriage, there is no legal recognition of it ever happening. A marriage is void if one party was already married, one party was under legal age to be married, or the parties are too closely related. A voidable marriage is a marriage that can be canceled at the option of one of the spouses and is subject to cancellation if contested in court.

Why do people chose to get an annulment, instead of a divorce?

Some people decide to get an annulment because they do not want the stigma that they believe is attached to “divorce.” Other people do it for religious reasons. And in some cases, it may be because their spouse provided a misrepresentation about themselves. Not all marriages can be annulled though, and there are certain requirements that must be met.

Civil AnnulmentĀ 

A civil annulment treats the marriage as though it never happened, but requires one of the following; fraud or misrepresentation, concealment, misunderstanding, impotency or incest, and lack of consent.

For example, a couple gets married and after being married for a period of time, one spouse reveals that they never want to have children. The other spouse didn’t know this, and it may be considered a misunderstanding and constitute grounds for an annulment.

Another example would be if a person got married just to gain citizenship. That would qualify as fraud or misrepresentation and grounds for an annulment.

Religious Annulment

The courts have their own grounds for obtaining an annulment, but the requirements for a religious annulment differ. But remember, both types have the same effect, treating the marriage as if it never happened.

In the Catholic Church, a diocesan tribunal, can decide if a marriage bond was less than a covenant for life. In order for this to be decided, it must be determined that the marriage lacked in some way from the beginning. Such cases would be a lack of emotional stability, maturity, honesty, and involuntarily entering a marriage. If the tribunal grants an annulment, then both parties may remarry in the Catholic Church.

Not all marriages can be annulled, and therefore a couple can get a divorce to dissolve the marriage.

A divorce is the dissolution of a marriage. It cancels or reorganizes legal responsibilities of the marriage and dissolves the bonds of matrimony between a married couple.

The biggest difference between a divorce and an annulment is how the parties treat the marriage. When a couple gets divorced, they are still recognizing that they were married. Spouses may chose to file for a no-fault or fault-based divorce.

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What is a no-fault divorce?

A no-fault divorce allows a spouse to file for divorce without blaming the other spouse for dissolution. The most commonly given reasons for a no-fault divorce are irreconcilable differences or an irreparable breakdown of the marriage. Basically, this means that the coupe does not get along, and the relationship is beyond repair.

All states recognize no-fault divorces. However, some states require that the spouses live separately for a designated period of time before either of them can file for a divorce.

Fault Divorce

A fault divorce is when one spouse requests that a divorce be granted based on a certain fault of the other spouse. This type of divorce is not as common, and now most states do not recognize them. In the states that do grant fault divorces, it may be due to adultery, abandonment, prison confinement, or emotional or physical cruelty.

Divorce in Missouri

Divorce is different in every state.

In the state of Missouri, the term dissolution of marriage is used instead of divorce. Missouri has limited no-fault divorce, meaning it is unnecessary to prove adultery, abandonment, or other reasons to obtain a dissolution. Both spouses must have been a resident of Missouri for at least 90 days prior to the date that the petition for dissolution was filed. After the petition for dissolution is filed, there is a minimum 30 days time period before a dissolution can be granted.

Whether you are going through an annulment or a divorce, it is important to know what your options are. If divorce is the route you are going to go, you should find an experienced divorce lawyer to work with. At Gateway Divorce Law, we will work with you to make your divorce matter as easy, quick, and affordable as possible.