If you are considering separating from your spouse in the State of California, you may be curious as to the difference between a legal annulment and a divorce. It is important to note that the legal definitions of annulment and divorce are different than the definition of those terms within certain religious designations. There are several differences between annulments and divorces that are critical to making the best decisions for your situation.

Definitions of Annulment and Divorce

In brief, the largest difference between an annulment and a divorce is that an annulment legally declares that the marriage was invalid, and a divorce legally ends a valid marriage.

An annulment is a legal ruling that completely erases and eliminates that a marriage ever occurred by declaring it null and void from the beginning. The marriage will still remain in legal records on file; however, it will indicate that the marriage was never legally valid. Again, it is important to distinguish the difference between a legal annulment and those provided by a religious institution, which has no effect on the legal process.

A divorce is a legal ruling that officially dissolves and terminates a legally valid marriage. After a divorce is finalized, the legal marriage is ended, and the spouses are legally single and free to marry anyone else.

Grounds for Annulment and Divorce

There are different legal grounds for both annulment and divorce.

  • Grounds for Annulment. Grounds for annulment include unknown facts or secrets. For example, if one of the parties lied about their age or that they had a secret child, it might be grounds for annulment. In other cases, if a spouse was already married to someone else (bigamy) or that the marriage was between family members (incest) the marriage would be considered void from the beginning. Any trickery or secrecy regarding marriage will oftentimes be grounds for annulment.
  • Grounds for Divorce. There are different laws regarding when a state will allow a divorce. Every state has different legal grounds for divorce, including some states that allow no-fault divorces in which both spouses are simply agreeing to end the marriage. The State of California is considered a no-fault divorce state.

After an Annulment or Divorce

There are different obligations and entitlements involved after an annulment or a divorce. For example, after a divorce, spouses will oftentimes have to create child custody arrangements, child visitations schedules, and alimony payments along with decisions regarding the division of property. However, with an annulment, both parties are not legally obligated to any of these considerations as the court has determined that there was never a legally valid marriage.

Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney

If you are in the process of deciding whether to end a marriage and are considering either an annulment or divorce, you should contact an experienced family law attorney to help you understand your legal rights in your specific circumstance. Contact the Law Offices of Dorie A. Rogers at 714)-500-8428 or online today for a free consultation to help you make decisions regarding how to legally end your marriage and plan your next best steps.