What is the Difference Between an Annulment and a Divorce?

A divorce legally terminates a legally valid marriage. An annulment dissolves a marriage by declaring it legally invalid. As a result, an annulment makes the marriage as if it never existed.

An annulment can only be granted if the marriage is voidable or is a void marriage, which are completely different despite how they sound. A voidable marriage is legally valid and recognized until it is annulled and declared otherwise. A void marriage was never valid to begin with.

For instance, a marriage is voidable and eligible to be annulled if one of the parties was under the influence of either alcohol or drugs at the time of the union. Voidable doesn’t automatically mean that the marriage is void, though. The parties will have to seek an annulment of a voidable marriage to dissolve it completely.

Now a marriage is void if it violates laws of marriage, such as bigamy. If one of the parties is already married to another, then this new marriage is instantly invalid and never legally recognized. However, if the parties decide to stay married and the party who was already married divorces or annuls that marriage, this new marriage will be legally valid and recognized. Another example of a void marriage is one between two closely related relatives, such as with a parent, a sibling, or an aunt or uncle.

Take note, however, that an annulment has none of the same processes as a divorce. So if you annul a marriage, there is no division of property, no spousal maintenance (alimony), and the like. An annulment just turns back time so that the act of marriage never happened. Also keep in mind that Texas only allows for an annulment in very specific circumstances that requires proof of these circumstances. In other words, irreconcilable differences are not grounds for an annulment in Texas. Even meeting the initial grounds for a voidable marriage (under the influence at the time, for example) can be insufficient if very specific other conditions aren’t met. Many of these have to do with time limits and/or continued cohabitation with the spouse. For these reasons, if you are thinking about an annulment, you should see a family lawyer immediately.

Next post, we’ll go over what Texas does require for an annulment. If you have any questions if your marriage can be annulled, feel free to contact our office.