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What Is the Difference Between Annulment And Divorce?

Young man is taking off the wedding ring. Close up view. Divorce concept

There are two options for legally leaving a relationship: divorce and annulment, and there are several similarities and differences between the two.  

The biggest difference between a divorce and an annulment is that a divorce ends a legally valid marriage, while an annulment formally declares a marriage to have been legally invalid.

If you’re in a marriage that you wish to leave, contact us now for a advice of family law experts. Although most couples choose divorce, an annulment is a better option for one or both spouses under certain circumstances. Legal annulments are rare, and the consequences of an annulment differ significantly from the effects of a divorce.

Let’s dive deeper into this issue by looking at legal justifications for both.

What is Divorce?

Divorce is a legal dissolving, termination, and ending of a legally valid marriage. A divorce ends a legal marriage and declares the spouses to be single again.

Grounds for divorce in DC:

DC is a no fault divorce state; the only legal ground for getting divorced in DC is a claim by either spouse that there has been an “Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.” This simply means that one or both spouses believe that the marriage doesn’t work anymore and will not work out in the future.

Neither spouse has to give any other reason for getting divorced. Therefore, anyone who otherwise qualifies to get divorced in Washington can do so, whether the other spouse is in agreement or not. Neither spouse is required to prove that the other spouse did something wrong in order to get divorced. While fault can play a part in some issues related to your divorce, bad acts or other wrongdoings do not matter when it comes to eligibility to get divorced

In order to be eligible to file for divorce, you must be legally married, meet all state residency requirements, and follow the procedural rules for getting divorced. You can get divorced in Washington so long as you or your spouse are a resident of the state, or one of you is a member of the military and stationed in the state for at least 90 days. As a general rule, you will file your divorce in the county in which either you or your spouse live.

What is Annulment?

A legal ruling that erases a marriage by declaring the marriage null and void and that the union was never legally valid. However, even if the marriage is erased, the marriage records remain on file. Note that a religious annulment is not a legal dissolution of a civil marriage

Grounds for a Declaration of Invalidity in DC

You need a legal “ground” to have your marriage declared invalid in DC. DC recognizes the following seven grounds:

  1. a spouse has another living husband or wife
  2. a spouse was mentally unable to consent to the marriage; insane, intoxicated, or incapacitated
  3. a spouse was too young to be married in DC (In DC, you must be at least 18 to get married, or at least 16 with the consent of a parent or guardian)
  4. one spouse was coerced into getting married
  5. a spouse defrauded the other about something essential to the marriage, and
  6. one spouse got married only because of threats or physical force.

Procedure to Obtain a Divorce Vs. Annulment

The procedure for obtaining a divorce and the procedure for obtaining an annulment are similar. One spouse files a petition with the court, a hearing is held, and the judge issues an order. A divorce starts with a divorce petition regardless of your state of residence. The petition is written by the petitioning spouse (or their legal counsel) and served on the other spouse. It’s then filed in the county where one of the spouses resides, regardless of where the marriage was held. 

While not mandatory to hire legal counsel before obtaining a divorce, legal separation, or annulment, it is highly advised. Take into consideration the legal complexities of child custody, support, and the division of assets–all things that rely heavily on the understanding of the law and your rights.

Schedule a Consultation Right Away!

Contact today  at The Law offices of Thomas Stahl and we will show you how we can help with your DC divorce and annulment cases. With offices in Maryland and DC, our attorneys focus their practice primarily on family law, so we are sure to have the skills that you need for proper representation in your divorce case.

We assist clients with:

  • Same-sex divorce
  • Separation and Alimony
  • Division of assets including business ownership
  • Custody
  • Child support
  • Marital agreements including prenuptial and post-nuptial agreements

Call us at (410) 696-4326 or (202) 964-7280 for immediate consultation.

Let Us Help You With Your Case