Divorce vs. Annulment: What’s the Difference?

divorce vs annulment whats the difference

When seeking to end a legal marriage, couples have two options. For most, divorce seems like an obvious choice, but for many, seeking an annulment is an important decision. Annulments, unlike divorces, makes the marriage void completely, and no record of the marriage existing remains. After a divorce, a divorce decree is created, and the marriage is legally ended, but paperwork pertaining to it remains. For tax and census purposes those divorced must also file as “divorced”, those who seek and are granted an annulment are considered “single” or “unmarried”, once again.


Divorce is the termination of a marriage between two people. In order for a divorce to be legal, a divorce decree must be granted by the court systems. The divorce process requires the filing of paperwork, as well as court dates to finalize the divorce. Additionally, in divorce proceedings issues pertaining to alimony, child support, visitation and the division of assets will be mediated by the court systems, unless both parties come to an agreement together.

The legal reasons for divorce vary by state, but generally, a couple wishing to divorce can pick from one of several legal reasons for divorce. The most commonly used reason is “irreconcilable difference”. Under this decree both parties agree that the marriage has broken down and can not be retrieved.


Under law, an annulment means the marriage is considered invalid by the eyes of the law. The marriage is considered null and void. An annulment renders a divorce completely unnecessary, as the marriage, in the eyes of the law never happened. There are several reasons a person can seek an annulment, although, not all annulments are granted.

Under the law, one can seek an annulment if they were incapacitated by drugs and alcohol, and thus, unable to make a rational decision. This is a common reason for annulment and can be utilized when there is no “engagement” period. Generally, those seeking an annulment for these reasons, must do so quickly.

A couple can also seek an annulment if there was deception that led to the marriage. For example, if a couple discussed children and sex prior to marriage, and one party changes their mind on these issues, they can seek an annulment. Similarly, if one party omits important information, such as financial debt, religious beliefs, or a criminal record, an annulment may be granted, as the other party would not have entered into the marriage knowing these facts.

Procedures and Processes 

Both an annulment and a divorce have due processes and procedures that must be completed in order for the courts to establish a decree. While the processes can be different, they begin with the filing of all necessary paperwork, often the obtainment of a lawyer or attorney, and court hearings. During court hearings a judge will hear the case for an annulment and grant or deny it based on the facts of the case. If an annulment is denied, the parties involved can then seek a traditional divorce. During divorce proceedings, a judge will hear the case, and help mediate the separation of any property and assets, as well as help set up child support and visitation arrangements, if children are involved.