What is an annulment?

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Updated: 4/13/2007 3:35 pm
An annulment is a declaration by a court that a marriage is invalid. An annulment is different from a divorce in that a divorce terminates a legal status, while an annulment establishes that a marital status never existed. For some people, divorce carries a stigma, and they would rather their marriage be annulled. Others prefer an annulment because it may be easier to remarry in their church if they go through an annulment rather than a divorce. Grounds for annulment vary slightly from state to state. An annulment may be granted if one spouse failed to tell the other of a past divorce, criminal record, disease, or an inability to have children. Marriage to an underage or mentally incompetent person may also be grounds for an annulment. You may also receive an annulment if you were forced to enter into the marriage as a result of fraud, force, or duress, or if your spouse is legally married to someone else and has not obtained a divorce. You may not be granted an annulment on the grounds of adultery, mental or physical cruelty, desertion, nonsupport, felony conviction or imprisonment, or drug or alcohol addiction. The procedure for obtaining an annulment is similar to the procedure for obtaining a divorce. If the court determines that the marriage should be annulled, it will distribute the assets and debts of the parties, award custody of children, and require payment of child support and alimony, if necessary.

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