Divorce vs. Annulment

divorce vs annulment

When the majority of marriages end, they are dissolved through a divorce decree. This is the usual process of legally ending a marriage. There are some special and uncommon facts that could allow a marriage to be erased without having to go through a divorce, and this process is known as an annulment. It is, however, difficult to annul a marriage. You need to qualify for a limited number of scenarios that may allow it. Below we discuss the differences between divorce vs. annulment in Texas.

When you get an annulment, it is as if the marriage never happened in the first place, and the court is retroactively declaring that there was no legal effect to the marriage. Usually, this is because there was something that meant that the marriage could have never been legal in the first place. Contrary to a popular misconception, you do not get an annulment just because the marriage did not last very long. Usually, there must be a key fact you didn’t know of, and which had you known of it you would not have gotten married in the first place.

Grounds for Annulment of a Marriage in Texas

The available grounds for a marital annulment under Texas law are codified in the Texas Family Code, Title 1, Subtitle C, Chapter 6, Subchapter B, and they include:

  • One party was under the age of 14 years old
  • The court may grant an annulment of a marriage of a person 16 years of age or older but under 18 years of age that occurred without parental consent or without a court order
  • One spouse did not have the capacity to get married, either because they were drunk or under the influence of narcotics at the time of the marriage
  • One spouse was impotent at the time of marriage
  • One party was induced to marry through the use of fraud, duress, or force
  • One party lacked mental capacity
  • One spouse concealed the fact that they were divorced for less than 30 days at the time of the marriage
  • The court may grant an annulment of a marriage to a party to the marriage if the marriage ceremony took place during the 72-hour period immediately following the issuance of the marriage license

There is one key distinction to be aware of under Texas law. Certain marriages, such as one between a parent and child or child marriage, were never valid in the first place, and they would be void. This is different from a marriage that may have been legal had any of the above reasons for an annulment not happened. A marriage can be declared void in Texas on the basis of:

  • Consanguinity – A marriage is void if one party to the marriage is related to the other as:
    • an ancestor or descendant, by blood or adoption
    • a brother or sister, of the whole or half blood or by adoption
    • a parent’s brother or sister, of the whole or half blood, or by adoption
    • a son or daughter of a brother or sister, of the whole or half blood, or by adoption
  • Existing Marriage – A marriage is void if entered into when either party was already married to another person and that marriage had not been dissolved or terminated
  • Underage – A marriage is void if either party is younger than 18 years of age unless a court order to the contrary has been obtained in Texas or another state
  • Stepchild – A marriage is void if one party is the current or former stepchild or stepparent of the other party

Annulments Can Be Difficult to Get

It is not an easy task when you are asking the court system to take an eraser to marriage as if it never happened. You would have a high burden of proof that you would need to meet. In order to get an annulment, you would need to prove some contentious and challenging facts that could be very embarrassing. The court would need to thoroughly investigate family records, court records, and other documents, which may take more time and resources than obtaining a divorce.

Sometimes, you may not need to go through the property division procedures that accompany the usual divorce. The judge would determine what happens to the property on a case-by-case basis. The judge may seek to restore you to the position you were in right before the marriage. If there were children involved in the marriage, the parents would still need to reach a custody agreement, and there would still be child support.

Usually, the motivation to get an annulment is that there are fewer issues that must be addressed than in a divorce. You may also feel that there is a stigma attached to being divorced that you do not want. In addition, if you were receiving alimony from a previous marriage that stopped when you got remarried, an annulment would allow you to receive it once more.

Several unknown factors may also determine whether you should seek a divorce or an annulment. Every family law case is unique, and sometimes it is necessary to have your case reviewed by a knowledgeable divorce lawyer so you can understand the implications of seeking a divorce or an annulment. It is important for you to weigh the costs and benefits of getting a divorce or seeking an annulment.

Filing An Annulment Petition

If you want to file an annulment petition in the State of Texas, then you need to satisfy the following requirements:

  • One of the spouses resided in the State of Texas at the time the annulment petition was filed
  • You and your spouse were married in the State of Texas

If you want to file an annulment petition, then you need to file it in one of the following counties:

  • The county where your spouse resided when you got married
  • The county where the courtship or other pre-wedding activities occurred
  • The county where you and your spouse were married

Most of the courts in Texas counties that process divorces also accept annulment petitions. A skilled family law attorney can help you understand the procedures for filing an annulment petition. Specific requirements may need to be met depending on the unique facts and circumstances of your case. Working with both judges and attorneys regarding your divorce or annulment can help you avoid errors and mistakes that can harm your ability to obtain a divorce or annulment.

Procedural errors can cost you time and money. You do not want to waste money on filing fees and other costs if you can avoid them by consulting an experienced divorce lawyer.

Divorces Are More Routine and Easier to Obtain

A divorce is much easier to accomplish than an annulment. Fraud is the most common reason for an annulment, and it is not easy to prove. You must prove that someone intentionally deceived you on a major issue. Many people end up disappointed when they seek an annulment because the court does not find that a lie or misstatement rose to the level of fraud. Proving a fraud claim requires satisfying several unique elements, one of which is the “scienter” element which requires that the individual had knowledge of the fraudulent conduct they were engaged in and they acted to deceive another party.

The difference between an annulment and a divorce involves having to present extensive evidence when seeking the former and none at all when filing for the latter. You will have to determine the evidence you have regarding the conduct you are concerned about as you decide whether to seek a divorce or an annulment. Family law matters also become more complicated when children and property are involved, so if you have questions about these elements, you should speak to a family law attorney as soon as possible.

In a Texas divorce, you do not have to prove anyone did anything wrong, which is why our state has no-fault divorce, which means nobody did anything wrong, and the two spouses just do not want to stay married anymore. Of course, you could always seek a fault-based divorce for various reasons, but these are harder to prove. No-fault divorces are, by far, the most common type of divorce in Texas.

Even in a no-fault divorce, there are still legal issues that must be decided. Although Texas is a community property state, property division can still present contentious issues in a contested divorce. While there will be a public record of a divorce, you are guaranteed to be able to end the marriage. If your request to annul a marriage is not granted, you would have to then seek a divorce to end it.

Complex procedural rules may make it difficult for you to seek a divorce or annulment on your own. Having a knowledgeable family law attorney on your side can help you avoid mistakes that will affect your legal rights. You also do not want to do anything that will affect your custodial rights. You will need to consider many different consequences of pursuing a divorce or an annulment.

A family law attorney can also inform you of any potential property disputes that may arise during the process of obtaining a divorce or an annulment. If you and your spouse have real property, personal property, and/or intangible property, then you need to be prepared to determine how to protect your interests. Speaking to a family law attorney will enable you to learn more about every aspect of your family law case.

Consult with a Texas Family Law Attorney to Learn Your Options

You should always consult with a Pearland divorce attorney about your legal options for ending a marriage. You should not be surprised if they tell you that you will have a far easier time getting a divorce than an annulment. However, your lawyer can work with the facts of your case and present them to the court if you decide to seek an annulment and your attorney determines there might be a legal basis for doing so.

Contact our office today for more information on how we can assist you.

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