When a couple decides to end a marriage, there are two ways to do so — either by a traditional divorce or through an annulment. Both divorce and annulment dissolve a marriage but are different in how the marriage is recognized. Many people do not understand the difference between the two, so here we will offer some clarification.

What is a divorce?

A divorce is a legal decree that ends a marriage prior to “until death do us part.” During a divorce, the couple decides that they no longer want to be married to each other and seek to end the marriage. In a divorce proceeding, a court will resolve issues including the division of assets, child custody, and any alimony. Once the divorce is final, the couple is no longer legally bound to each other. There are several factors that will affect how divorce proceedings will go including fault-based versus no-fault divorce and whether the divorce is contested by one party or not. For more information on divorce methods, read here.

What is an annulment?

An annulment is essentially a revocation of a marriage and, once finalized, voids the marriage as though it never happened. An annulment is granted if a marriage is found to be invalid. Because the marriage is treated as though it never existed, generally division of assets and alimony are not a part of proceedings, however, if children are involved, custody issues will be handled through the courts. To obtain an annulment, one party must prove that the marriage is invalid based on legal ground.

Fraud or misrepresentation – if one of the spouses has lied about something to misrepresent themselves to the other. This includes concealing information about a previous marriage or children, their age, profession or income, or criminal background.

Bigamy – one of the parties was already married at the time the marriage took place.

Forced consent or coercion – when one party was threatened, tricked, or forced into marriage — whether by fear or arranged marriage.

Incestuous – the married parties familial relationship makes the marriage incestuous.

Mental incapacity – either spouse was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time the marriage took place.

Mental illness – either spouse was mentally ill or emotionally disturbed when the marriage took place.

Impotence – either spouse is unable to function sexually or consummate the marriage.

Underage marriage – either spouse was too enter into the marriage without parental consent.

Should I get a divorce or an annulment?

When dissolving a marriage, whether you pursue a divorce or annulment is a matter of personal preference and eligibility. Many people, particularly for religious reasons, prefer an annulment for the simple fact that it is as though the marriage never happened. However, annulments are not as easy to obtain. When you are navigating the complex system that is legal separation and dissolution of marriage in New Jersey, it helps to have an experienced lawyer on your side. Bart W. Lombardo, Esq. is an experienced family law attorney who can help you with divorce, annulment, child custody, alimony, and division of assets. For legal support at your side, contact us today!