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How does an annulment differ from a divorce?

Our readers may have heard the news that following a recent wedding in Las Vegas, actor Nicholas Cage is sought an annulment after only having been married for four days. While this might seem to be a story out of a movie or television program, the fact of the matter is that sometime a couple who quickly realize that their marriage will not last will seek an annulment rather than a divorce. This may cause people to wonder, how does an annulment differ from a divorce?

An annulment differs from a divorce in the sense that while a divorce recognizes a marriage existed and it is now over, in an annulment the court deems that, for legal purposes, the marriage never existed at all. Thus, the marriage is “void.” An annulment can affect your marital property rights, stop you from inheriting a share of your former spouse’s estate and you will not be eligible for spousal support.

While state law varies, annulments generally can only be sought for a certain amount of time following the marriage. In general, there are a variety of legal grounds for annulment. Again, while state law varies, an annulment can be sought if a party was so mentally ill, temporarily insane or intoxicated that they were unable to knowingly and of their own free will consent to getting married. If a party to the marriage made a misrepresentation or lie to induce the other party to marry them, then the harmed party may seek an annulment based on fraud. Those who are forced under the threat of violence to the point that they only married under a state of duress or that they lacked the ability to consent to marry, then they may seek an annulment.

In addition, if one party is permanently impotent at the time they married, and the party who wants to annul the marriage did not know of the impotency until after they married, this may be grounds for an annulment. If a person is already married at the time they try to marry someone else, the second marriage may be annulled. In addition, incestuous marriages and mock marriages may be annulled.

As this shows, annulments differ from divorce in some significant manners. However, annulments are rare, and most people who want to end their marriage will pursue a divorce.

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