Key Differences Between an Annulment and a Divorce
If you’re considering ending your marriage with the assistance of a divorce lawyer, you’re not alone. In the USA, about 50% of marriages end in divorce. Second and subsequent marriages have even higher divorce rates, and understanding the difference between an annulment and a divorce will help you make the best decision for your personal and financial future.
Invalidation of the Marriage
The biggest difference between a divorce and an annulment is that an annulment declares the marriage to have been legally invalid. A divorce is the ending of a legally valid marriage. By declaring a marriage invalid, an annulment is like erasing a marriage. However, the legal marriage records still remain on file in the courts. A religious annulment has no legal standing. If you want a legally binding annulment, this requires a court process.
Legal Termination of a Valid Marriage
A divorce is the legal termination of a valid marriage. The divorce decree states that both parties are single again. It ends all of the legal rights and obligations that married spouses have to each other. It also ends the legal benefits of a marriage, such as health care and survivorship benefits.
Reasons for a Divorce
Courts accept a wide variety of reasons for a divorce. The most common type of divorce is a no-fault divorce. This means that neither party is the cause of the ending of the marriage. “Irreconcilable differences” is the most frequently cited reason behind a no-fault divorce.
Pennsylvania law allows you or your soon-to-be-ex-spouse to file for a fault divorce. A fault divorce entails proving that the other party in the marriage acted in a way so as to end the marriage. Some reasons for a fault divorce include adultery, domestic violence, and cruel treatment. In a fault divorce, there are differences in the divorce settlement. For example, the spouse who committed adultery may be ineligible for alimony. The other spouse will have to prove to the court that the adultery took place in order to be granted a fault divorce.
Reasons for an Annulment
You may consider filing for an annulment if you or the other party believes that the marriage should never have taken place. For example, you may have gotten married by the justice of the peace after going on just two dates with your spouse. If you decide this marriage should never have taken place, filing for an annulment is a way to erase the marriage. Other reasons for an annulment include the discovery of secrets. If you would have had access to this information at the time of the marriage, you would not have gone through with it. For example, if your spouse had a child and didn’t tell you about them, this may be a reason for annulment.
Legal Grounds for Annulment
Pennsylvania courts also offer legal grounds for annulment that are not available for divorce. For example, if the marriage is incestuous or if one or both of the spouses were not legally old enough to marry, these are grounds for an annulment.
Eligibility for Alimony
After an annulment, neither party is eligible to receive alimony or spousal support. After a divorce, one of the parties may be able to receive alimony. Alimony may be granted if one person was a stay-at-home spouse or parent, cannot work, or earns significantly less money than the other spouse.
A consultation with a divorce lawyer in Jenkintown, PA, makes it easier to understand the options for ending your marriage. After consulting with a divorce attorney, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you explored all of the options and made the best possible decision for your future. For more information about the differences between an annulment and a divorce, contact the Law Office of Joanne Kleiner at 215-886-1266, or fill out our online form today.