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Annulments and divorces have the same end result — change your status to single and you’re free to remarry. But they have different legal implications, and you’ll need to provide proof of specific circumstances. While annulments aren’t necessarily faster or cheaper than a divorce, they have a few distinct advantages.
An annulment is a legal procedure that treats a marriage as though it never existed. It voids the marriage because it wasn’t legal to begin with. Each state spells out the circumstances or reasons that qualify you for an annulment, including if you were mentally incapacitated or you were misled into the marriage because of a lie or misrepresentation.
An annulment can cost anywhere from $150 to $5,000 — not including your state filing fee, which varies from county to county and averages around $300. How much you ultimately pay depends on a few factors, including whether your spouse contests the annulment and if you hire a lawyer.
Some states impose time limits for when you can legally request an annulment. For example, California’s annulment window is limited to four years on most grounds for annulment. Other states, such as Alabama, have no time limits.
No, you don’t need to hire a lawyer. You can use an online legal service or fill out the required legal documents yourself and submit the forms to your local county clerk.
But you’ll need to prove that you meet at least one of the grounds for annulment. Consider consulting a lawyer if you need help demonstrating that you have a legal reason for the annulment.
An annulment declares that the marriage was never legal or valid in the first place, whereas a divorce ends the marriage. The key difference is what happens after. If you’re divorced, you’ve been previously married. But if you’ve had an annulment, the marriage never existed.
To get an annulment, you must prove that you have a legal reason for it. On the other hand, most states allow for a no-fault divorce that doesn’t require proof of wrongdoing.
Here are a few key differences between the two:
|What it is||Legal procedure that deems your marriage never existed.||Legal procedure that ends your marriage.|
|Who it’s best for||Couples that want to erase the marriage and meet strict state guidelines.||Couples that want to terminate a legal marriage.|
|Cost||$150 to $5,000 + state filing fees||$150 to $23,000 + state filing fees|
|Length of time required before filing||Varies by state||Varies by state|
|Statute of limitations||Yes — varies by state and grounds for annulment||No|
|Children considered legitimate||Yes||Yes|
|Marital status afterward||Single||Single|
You can hire an online service to help you with the legal forms for your divorce or annulment.
The grounds for annulment and the time limit for each reason vary by state. Here are some common legal bases for annulment:
Here are a few good arguments for getting an annulment instead of a divorce:
An annulment legally voids a marriage and generally restores your single status from before the union. With a legal separation, you remain married to your spouse, although you live separate lives. A separation agreement lays out your responsibilities and division of assets and debts.
You can only get an annulment if you meet your state’s strict guidelines to qualify. There’s no waiting period, but it’s not necessarily cheaper or faster than a divorce — especially if your spouse contests it.
And since annulments have a burden of proof, it might be easier to terminate the marriage with a divorce. Take a look at our guide to divorce to learn about its legal implications and decide if it’s right for you.
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