Annulment Vs Divorce? Which One Should You Choose? Find Out!

annulment vs divorce

Are you facing problems in your marriage and looking for a way out? 

Do you find yourself constantly fighting with your spouse and wondering what it might be like to get separated? 

Do you really feel that being single is the best way to go? 

Well, you have two options. You can get a divorce, or you can get an annulment of your marriage.

Any citizen of the United States is presented with these two options to end their marriage or their domestic partnership legally. While you are looking into these, the question of annulment vs divorce can be a tricky one. Especially because these laws can vary from one state to another. For example, annulment vs divorce California laws will differ from those in Texas. For starters, since most of us don’t understand the difference between annulment and divorce, let us begin by defining each.

What Is An Annulment vs. Divorce?

Let us discuss this one after the other to be able to compare and contrast.


An annulment is a Legal procedure through which a court of law declares that a marriage is null right from its inception. 

  • This concept is known as void ab initio.  This means that the marriage never truly existed. 
  • This can happen when the facts stated by either party during entering into the marriage are untrue. 
  • It can also happen when either party is not fit to enter into a marriage due to various reasons.
  • Laws regarding annulment can vary from state to state since the state decides on matters of family law
  • However, there are some principle grounds for annulment that remain the same in every state.

What Are The Grounds For Annulment?

While discussing annulment vs divorce, it is important to see which category your case fits into. These are the reasons why the court may make a decision on the annulment of a marriage. 


The court would annul a marriage if one of the spouses were already married to another person while getting married to the second one.

  • An already married person will not be able to get married again under the law unless the first marriage ends legally. 
  • The second marriage will be considered null and void right from the very beginning.

Case Law

In the case of Haines v. Haines, Nettie Haines filed for an annulment of marriage when she discovered that her husband Ralph was still married to his first wife. 

Fraud Or Misrepresentation Of Facts

The court will decide that a marriage is void if any of the spouses have been fraudulent about facts before entering into the marriage. 

  • This means if the spouse lied about significant information, such as their impotence, infertility, or criminal history, that is sufficient grounds for annulment of a marriage. 
  • Misrepresentation of facts means hiding or construing the truth to the other spouse to get their consent in marriage. 
  • Consent obtained under fraud and misrepresentation is not valid.

Case Law

In the case of Freeman v. Freeman, the marriage was annulled due to the husband’s false claims of wealth to the wife during and before marriage. The wife filed for an annulment after discovering the truth.

If one spouse did not give open and honest consent to the marriage, it is sufficient grounds for annulment. 

  • If either spouse was under the influence of alcohol or other substances while the marriage was taking place, that makes the marriage null and void right from the beginning.


The movie, “What Happens in Vegas,” was not exactly based on the merits of law as Joy and Jack’s marriage was void right from the beginning. 

If Either Party Was A Minor

According to the law of the United States, no one can legally enter into a marriage while being a minor. 

  • When you are a minor, it means that you do not have the legal capacity to marry or enter into any contract. 
  • Therefore, being underage is sufficient grounds for annulment of a marriage.

Impotence Or Infertility

Being infertile or impotent is not sufficient grounds for annulment of a marriage.

  • However, if either party has concealed their impotence or infertility from the other spouse while getting married, concealment of such a fact is grounds enough for annulment.

Case law

In the case of Mason vs Mason, the court recognised that marriage could be announced due to the concealed impotence of either party.

Lack Of Free Will

If either spouse were forced to enter into the marriage against their free will, this marriage is null and void right from the beginning. 

  • If they were forced, threatened cost, or held at gunpoint to enter into this marriage, the judge would pass an order for an annulment as soon as the fact is brought to the court’s notice.

Hiding Of Health Issues Or Other Serious Matters

If either spouse has any terminal illnesses or history of violence / criminal record, they are under the legal obligation to be honest about it with the other spouse. 

  • If they fail to do so, this will be a valid ground for annulment of that marriage.

Either Spouse Is Mentally Unsound

The court can annul a marriage if either spouse is incapable of providing consent due to a lack of mental capacity.

  • Common mental disorders under the United States law that can lead to annulment.


This is when a person has a clinical diagnosis of a severe mental disorder.


This is the legal condition where a person is deemed to be legally incompetent for a legal proceeding. This also means they are not competent to get married.

People Under Guardianship And Conservatorship

You might have heard about Britney Spears’s conservatorship. Any person who has severe mental disorders can be placed under the guardianship or conservatorship of a responsible individual. After that, only the guardian can make decisions on behalf of the person.


This is a condition where a person, legally and by blood related to another, marries them. These conditions are declared valid grounds for a normal under US law.

Now that we have discussed annulment in detail let us talk about the second element of the annulment vs divorce Debate. 


Now, let us look into the latter. The decision of annulment vs. divorce cannot be carried out without knowing what divorce is. 

  • Divorce is legally known as the dissolution of marriage. 
  • It is the legal process through which a marriage ends. 
  • Following a divorce, there are various legal and financial aspects such as spousal support, child custody and support, division of property, and renewed estate planning. 
  • The Constitution does not give married couples a right to divorce. However, the state does.
  • Since divorce is also an aspect of family law, there is no particular federal law regarding it. 
  • State laws define how a divorce proceeding will be carried out. Family court deals with divorce matters.

What Are The Types Of Divorce?

Divorce can be of two types

  • Fault-based divorce
  • No-fault divorce.

No-Fault Divorce

A no-fault divorce is a provision through which both parties can get a divorce without establishing the fault of either. It is the legal way to a healthy divorce

  • This takes place when both parties to a marriage have come to the conclusion to part amicably. 
  • The reason behind a no-fault divorce is usually irreconcilable differences.
  • This is how a no-fault divorce proceeding goes on. 
  • One of the two spouses files for a divorce in the family court. The divorce petition states that their marriage has broken down, and they are seeking divorce.
  • This petition is served to the other spouse, who is called the respondent.
  • Both spouses negotiate on the terms of the divorce settlement with or without a divorce attorney.
  • In case there are children involved, the court usually gives approval to the petition, ensuring their best interest.
  • When the court approves the settlement agreement and both parties agree, the divorce is finalized.
  • A no-fault divorce that does not involve an attorney is usually less time and money-consuming. However, if you are considering a divorce proceeding, you can consult a lawyer for all sorts of legal help.

Fault-Based Divorce

This is the most common type of divorce usually seen in the US. In this case, neither spouse is able to reach common ground in the divorce agreement. 

  • This is usually because either party is at fault. The person filing for the divorce is called the petitioner. 
  • The petitioner is the one who has to provide evidence that the other spouse’s behavior justifies an end to the marriage.

What Are The Grounds For Filing A Divorce?

The grounds acceptable in fault-based divorce are as follows.


This is the act of a spouse engaging in sexual intercourse with another person while being married. 

  • This is one of the first grounds for a fault-based divorce.
  • Adultery is so serious a ground that it can even impact the alimony or property division received during divorce proceedings. 
  • Proving adultery can be done through private investigations, witnesses’ testimony, text messages, emails, or other evidence that supports the claims.
Cruelty And Domestic Violence

Cruelty or acts of domestic violence or other valid grounds for getting a divorce. 

  • This includes physical violence, actions taken to intimidate the other spouse, emotional abuse, controlling behavior, and all other forms of mental and physical abuse.
  • To prove that one’s spouse is a victim of domestic violence or cruelty, they will need to submit documents, medical reports, or photographs to support their statement.
Abandonment Or Desertion

This is one of the grounds for fault-based divorce. 

  • It is a situation where one spouse leaves the other one without any proper explanation. 
  • They live with the intention of ending the marriage.
  • However, abandonment is when the spouse voluntarily leaves rather than being kidnapped or made to leave. 
  • The petitioner’s spouse has to prove to the court that they have done it with the intention of ending the marriage. 
  • The abandonment should last for a minimum period of 1 year. There should be a clear lack of justification behind the abandonment.
Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is one of the grounds for a fault-based divorce. 

  • The petitioner of the divorce will only have to prove to the court that their spouse’s addiction is harming the marriage. 
  • The impact that addiction has on marriage has to be substantial. 
  • The petitioner will also have to produce evidence to support their claim.
If One Spouse Goes To Jail

If one spouse goes to prison for a long period of time, the other spouse can file for a divorce. 

  • The petitioner’s spouse has to prove to the court that the incarceration is negatively affecting their marriage. 
  • The period of incarceration can vary from state to state. 
  • However, the burden of proof always lies on the petitioner.

Impotence or the inability to engage in sexual intercourse with the spouse can be a ground for fault-based divorce. 

  • In this case, the spouse petitioning for divorce must proof to the court with medical documentation. 
  • They will need to show the court that they want to have children, and the inability to do so is negatively affecting their relationship.

Now let’s proceed to the section where we will arrive at what is better when looking at Annulment Vs Divorce.

Are There Any Similarities Of Annulment Vs Divorce?

The big fat comparison of which is better in Annulment Vs Divorce, should first begin by noting down the similarities between the two.

End Of A Marriage

Annulment and divorce are both legal processes that lead to the end of a marriage. 

  • Both involve legal termination with the termination of the spousal rights of individuals. 
  • After both the legal precedents are over, spouses are no longer bound to each other.

The Court Gets Involved

Annulment and divorce both involve court proceedings. 

  • The annulment vs divorce journey is quite similar because both involve petitioners submitting documents to the court. 
  • After careful evaluation, the court arrives at a conclusion.

Lawyers Are Involved

Both processes usually involve attorneys. 

  • You are 50% more likely to reach a favorable outcome by hiring an attorney for an annulment and a divorce. 
  • However, in no-fault divorces, spouses often choose to take the DIY approach.

The Permanent Change In Status

After both divorce and annulment take place, spouses regain their status as single. 

  • There are very subtle differences between these which we will discuss in the next section.

Now that we have discussed the similarities in the Annulment Vs Divorce department, let us look at the differences so that you can understand which one would be a better fit for you.

Are There Any Differences Between Annulment And Divorce?

In this annulment vs divorce debate, let us talk about the differences in both of these legal approaches. 

Covering The Basics

First, let’s discuss the differences in definitions.

  • Divorce is a legal termination and ending of a legally valid marriage. 
  • Whereas an annulment is a legal declaration that the marriage is null and void and it has been voiding right from the beginning.

The Grounds For Annulment vs Divorce

In case of a divorce, the marriage was once legally recognized under the law. 

  • Both parties, who were once legally married to each other, now want to leave the union. 
  • In the case of an annulment, the marriage was never truly valid. The marriage existed on false ground and, therefore, never truly existed at all. It is known as void ab initio or void from the beginning.
  • Annulment requires certain grounds such as bigamy, fraud, impotence, and lack of consent. 
  • The grounds are discussed in detail in previous sections of this article. 
  • It is worth mentioning that a certain type of divorce called the no-fault divorce can happen without either party citing any grounds.

Are There Any Time Bound Aspects Of Either? 

There are certain time period-related differences between the both. 

  • A couple usually wants to get an annulment soon after the marriage or after a short while. 
  • A long marriage does not usually qualify for an annulment but for a divorce.
  • A couple can file for a divorce whenever they want to. 
  • However, the court usually requires a minimum period of staying apart. 
  • This allows the spouses a certain amount of headspace to figure out whether or not they want a divorce. 
  • There is no such waiting period for an annulment.

What Is The Property Division In Annulment Vs Divorce Like?

The concept of annulment vs divorce is very prominent in the case of property division. 

  • In an annulment, the marriage is considered to be void ab initio, and therefore, there is no creation of marital property. 
  • Property acquired by each spouse during the marriage will be considered individual property after annulment.
  • There is a retainment of property brought by each spouse in the marriage. 
  • If a property was jointly bought by the couple, it will be divided according to the contribution made by each one.

When a divorce takes place, it means that the marriage is legally recognized for dissolution. 

  • Most state laws follow the principle of equitable distribution of property in case of a divorce
  • Marital property does exist in case of a divorce. 
  • The division is made fairly and equitably considering each spouse’s financial contribution, the needs of each spouse, and the length of their marriage.

What Is The Debt Distribution Like?

In the case of an element and divorce, the division of that is treated differently. 

  • In case of annulment, the spouse who acquired the debt will be the one to pay. 
  • Whereas in case of a divorce, the court will distribute the death along with the rest of the assets.

Are Prenuptial Agreements Honored In Both Cases?

The stance on these agreements can vary in both cases. 

  • Legally in the case of annulments, a prenuptial agreement will not stand in an annulment because the marriage is itself not valid in the first place. 
  • However, a divorce will abide by the rules set in the agreement. It is worth mentioning that in both cases, the court will decide the final terms.

What Is The Financial Situation In Both Cases?

As you already know, after a divorce is settled, spouses get alimony and spousal support, however, you like to call it. 

  • The profits of one spouse are often shared between the two. This is the same with marital property.
  • However, with an annulment, that is never the case. 
  • Since neither the marriage is valid nor recognized, there is no scene of spousal support or alimony. 
  • Things just revert to the way they were, financially or legally.

 What Happens To The Children In Annulment Vs Divorce?

Children are not automatically illegitimate through an annulment. 

  • However, in an annulment, the court takes the upper hand in declaring the parentage of the kids
  • This largely depends on the jurisdiction the case falls under. Precedents show the court what is the ideal course in this case.
  • As we already know, children get child support after a marriage is dissolved through a divorce. 
  • The spouse also gets child custody as decided by the court rulings.

Which One Costs More?

If you are opting for a divorce attorney, divorce proceedings can get pretty expensive. 

  • On average, the cost of a divorce can be around $15,000 to $20,000, with a median cost of $7,000. But the total cost can vary based on different things. 
  • For example, if you hire a lawyer in the city, it will cost you more than a lawyer who practices in rural areas. 
  • The costs of a divorce can also go up if your case is more complicated than the average one. 
  • Sometimes, the cost of a divorce can even be over $100,000. 
  • On the other hand, if both people are opting for a no-fault divorce, it can cost around $200.
  • The cost of an annulment can vary from state to state and case to case. 
  • It can be anywhere between $500 to $5,000. 
  • It can depend on where you live, how experienced your lawyer is, and how complicated your case is.

Final Word

what is the benefit of an annulment vs a divorce? To answer your question about annulment vs divorce, neither one is better than the other. By now, you must have understood the grounds that are applicable to both. You will have to see which conditions fit your case the best and decide accordingly. If you still have doubts, you should definitely consult a divorce attorney or a family lawyer. They will guide you to the best possible outcome!

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Debkanya Bhattacharya
Debkanya is a lawyer turned writer. With an experience of 3 years, she is your go-to source for all things law. She has a soft corner for the US and international section. When the weekend arrives, you'll find her reading up on politics, Austen, or travel blogs over a cup of coffee.

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