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How are divorce and annulment different?

It is important for a California couple intending to end a marriage to understand the difference between a divorce and an annulment. Both are methods of putting a legal end to your marriage, but annulment is only available to you in very specific circumstances. 

According to FindLaw, an annulment invalidates a marriage completely. It not only dissolves the union but treats it as though it never happened at all in the eyes of the law. On the other hand, a divorce acknowledges that the marriage happened and was valid but has now come to an end. 

If you have your marriage annulled, you do not have the same rights afforded to divorced couples. For example, you cannot seek support (alimony) from your former spouse because if your marriage never existed, your former spouse has no responsibility to provide for you financially. Similarly, you have no marital property rights in the event of an annulment because if your marriage never happened, you and your former spouse did not hold any property in common. One notable exception, however, is that if you and your former spouse have children together, the court will still determine custody and order child support, just as it would do in a divorce, to ensure that the children receive proper care. 

Generally speaking, for you to be eligible for an annulment, there must be a circumstance present that should have prevented you from getting married in the first place. The court refers to such circumstances as grounds for annulment, which can include bigamy, incest, lack of consent, fraud/misrepresentation, mental illness or temporary insanity.

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.