Should You Get An Annulment Instead Of A Divorce?

When people think of ending a marriage within U.S. family law, they tend to picture the divorce process. There is, however, another way to end a marriage. Annulment is a challenge to the initial validity of the marriage and not a claim that the union has failed, and it may represent a viable alternative if you're looking for the fastest way out. This blog compares the two approaches and considers whether an annulment or a divorce might be desirable in your case.

Grounds for Annulment

An annulment requires proof of a fairly dramatic claim to dissolve a marriage. To annul a marriage, you must prove there wasn't a valid marriage to start with due to deception, coercion, mental incapacity, misrepresentation, incest, illegality, or fraud. When you compare this standard of proof to the relative ease of no-fault divorce, you can understand why many folks who have grounds for annulments still opt for the no-fault route.

States vary widely in what they consider grounds for annulments. Nationwide, an annulment can always be requested if there's evidence that one party was still married at the time of the marriage. Most states will also allow annulments in instances of extreme mental illness involving one partner, usually requiring several months of being remanded to a psychiatric or drug treatment facility.

At the other end of the spectrum, Delaware will consider an annulment if one party attests the marriage was done on a dare or as a joke. The inability to consummate the marriage, implying not having sexual relations at any time during the union, is also grounds for an annulment. Proving it, however, can be a challenge.

Why Would You Seek an Annulment?

In light of the relative speediness of no-fault divorce, you might wonder why it would ever be worth it to request an annulment. Foremost, an annulment means no marriage existed in the eyes of the law. While this won't get you off the hook for child support, it will save you from the possibility of paying alimony.

Secondly, the no-fault divorce process isn't very fast in every state. For example, Pennsylvania requires a one-year waiting period if only one party agrees to the divorce. Your divorce lawyer will accumulate billable hours with filings, and the situation may lack finality. While it's usually possible to have temporary support and custody orders entered in the meantime, no one wants to needlessly spend months or years in legal limbo.

For more information, check out websites like