What Is the Difference Between a Divorce and an Annulment?

Ending a marriage is hard. It is one of the most trying periods of a person’s life. There could be financial changes, emotional trauma, and several difficult moves. If you are looking into separating from your spouse, it is important to be informed about your options.

Read on to find out more about the difference between annulment and divorce. While both are the end to a marriage, the qualifications needed to be granted a divorce or an annulment differ, so too do the effects.

divorce papers and rings

What Is a Divorce?

Simply put, a divorce ends a legal marriage. There is a multitude of reasons to pursue a divorce, including infidelity, abandonment, and imprisonment. Even if no event, disagreement, or ongoing crisis caused the divorce, ‘no-fault’ divorces are legal in every state. A ‘no-fault’ divorce means that neither spouse is responsible for the end of the marriage, but that both partners want to end the union.

In some states, couples are required to go through a trial separation period before proceeding with a divorce.

At the end of a divorce, the marriage is dissolved. The former partners in a divorce will now be ‘divorcees.’

What Is an Annulment?

An annulment, on the other hand, is the declaration that a marriage was not legally valid in the first place. There are several reasons why a marriage may be annulled:

  • One or both spouses were tricked into the marriage
  • One or both spouses were not able to consent to the marriage due to the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • One or both spouses were already married
  • One or both spouses were not of age
  • The spouses were related (incest)
  • Major issues on the part of a spouse were concealed e.g. drug addiction, criminal history
  • One spouse was impotent

At the end of the annulment, the marriage is declared invalid, and it is as if it never existed. The former partners in an annulment will be ‘single’ or ‘unmarried.’


Further Differences Between Divorce and Annulment

Other than the fundamental difference between divorces and annulments, that is, dissolving a valid marriage or declaring a marriage was not valid in the first place, there are several other distinctions between divorces and annulments to note.

  • Length of Time Before Filing — In Iowa, you must have been an Iowa resident for one year before you file for divorce. There is no required period of trial separation before you file divorce papers. There is no delay or waiting period required for annulment.
  • Children — In both cases of divorce and cases of annulment, children that come out of the marriage are considered legitimate.
  • Alimony — In cases of divorce, the court could designate the amount of alimony a spouse has to pay. In cases of annulment, the court does not have this power.
  • Witness and Proof — Annulments have to meet at least one of the qualifications listed above. There has to be proof that the marriage was invalid or unlawful ‘from the get-go.’ On the other hand, there is no need for witnesses or proof in every divorce scenario. You can be granted a divorce simply because you want one — which is called a ‘no-fault’ divorce. However, if you are ending a marriage due to adultery, for example, proof will be required.
  • Division of Property — The division of property is one of the most difficult and drawn-out parts of a divorce. However, in an annulment, the courts will attempt to return all property to the person it belonged to before the marriage.

Religious Requirements Surrounding Divorce and Annulment

Many religions have their own requirements surrounding divorce and annulment. In many cases, you will need to obtain permission from a religious leader to be granted an annulment or divorce. It is important to note that this process is entirely separate from the civic process of ending your marriage.

Call Us Today

Ending your marriage is frightening. In all likelihood, your world is about to be turned upside down. There are a million pieces of paper you have to find and collect, there are friends you have to call, realtors to reach out to, and children you have to have a difficult conversation with. You need a professional in your corner.

The attorneys at Arenson Law Group, PC are here for you. We have served your community for years, and are ready to help you move into this next stage of life. Call us today at (319) 363-8199. We will walk you through every step of this process with compassion and skill.