An annulment in the civil and not the religious sense is very much like getting a divorce. Just as divorce laws vary from state and state, each state or country may have specific rules about the reasons an annulment can be granted. The main differences between divorces and annulments include paperwork filed (each state determines this) and the fact that an annulment makes a statement slightly different than a divorce. Divorces end a marriage and annulments, when granted, treat the marriage as though it never occurred.
There are some fairly common reasons to get annulments. These could include unwillingness or incapacity to consummate a marriage or a marriage between closer relatives than the state allows. Annulments may be preferred to divorces when marriage occurs between minors that do not have the proper parental permission.
Another reason people seek voiding a marriage is if they have been lied to in way that is fraudulent. When people marry, they enter into a contract, but that contract can be voided when deliberate lying obstructed one person’s understanding of it. A spouse might lie about their health, sanity, the status of their finances, and/ or their ability or desire to conceive children.
If fraud didn’t occur, and no other state-acknowledged reason exists, most people will need to seek a divorce instead. Some lawyers comment that divorces actually tend to be easier to get, especially in states where there are no-fault divorces. However, some people would rather get an annulment if offered one. One of the reasons annulments may be more difficult is if one member of the couple must prove the facts of why the marriage should be considered void, which may not always be possible.
Most people will need to retain the services of a lawyer in order to file whatever state papers are necessary. Like a divorce, some of the same things may need to be considered if the marriage is of some length. These can include division of property and child custody matters. However, when the marriage is of very short length and was entered into in a fraudulent manner, the annulment may occasionally void rights to property. This depends on the laws of each state, and a lawyer is the best person to help people determine between annulment and divorce, and also to proceed once a person decides which is better.
Annulments occurring in a religious context tend not to be state recognized. People will still need to file for divorce or annulment. Similarly, religious groups do not always recognize civil annulments. If interested in seeking a religious acknowledgment that the marriage is void, people are advised to contact their church leaders for advice, but they must always remember that such an annulment is unlikely to be considered the end of the marriage by the state.