What is the Difference Between a Divorce and an Annulment?

If you are thinking about filing for divorce in Georgia, you might be wondering if you should actually file for divorce or if you should seek an annulment. As experienced family law attorneys in Georgia, we often hear our clients as what the difference between a divorce and an annulment is. We want to help clarify that divorce and annulment are two very different things, and they cannot be used interchangeably.

In brief, an annulment functions to say the marriage never legally happened, while a divorce functions to say that the marriage happened, but it ended. To explain the legal ramifications of either decision when ending a marriage, we can turn to Georgia law.

When Annulment is Appropriate

Annulment is only appropriate when the marriage is “declared void by law”. One of the more common misconceptions about annulment is that you can get an annulment—instead of a divorce—if your marriage only lasted for a short time. For instance, maybe you made a quick decision to marry someone you had known for only a few weeks, and after being married for a similar amount of time, you realize you made a mistake. To be clear, annulments are not just for marriages in which the spouses decide they made a mistake, and an annulment does not have anything to do with how long you were married or whether the marriage was likely to last. Instead, annulments are only for marriages that were not legally binding in the first place.

Under O.C.G.A. 19-4-1, annulments of marriage can only be granted when the marriage is “declared void by law.” In other words, annulments are for marriages that are not legal to begin with. Some of the following reasons that a marriage can be annulled include but are not limited to the following:

  • One or both of the parties is already married to someone else;
  • Parties are related either by blood or by marriage;
  • One or both of the parties was underage when the marriage occurred;
  • One or both of the parties was forced to get married through fraud or coercion; and
  • One or both of the parties was incompetent at the time of the wedding.

It is important to note, however, that just because someone falls into one of those categories, that fact alone does not automatically qualify them for an annulment. To be sure, the statute clarifies that if children already have been born or “are to be born as a result of the marriage,” then an annulment cannot be granted.

When Divorce is Appropriate

Divorce is appropriate when a marriage is declared “void by law” or when a married couple wants to end their legal union, meaning that divorce is the only option for a married couple whose union was legal in the first place. At the same time, in order to be eligible a petition for divorce, grounds for divorce (O.C.G.A. 19-5-3) must exist. There are numerous grounds for divorce, and an experienced Georgia family law attorney can help explain your eligibility.
Contact a Georgia Divorce Lawyer
If you still have questions about the difference between annulment and divorce, or if you want to file a petition for annulment or for divorce, a Georgia divorce lawyer can help. Contact Mitchell & Crunk today.