Multiple Options to End Your Marriage
When it comes to ending your marriage, there are multiple options at your disposal. You can choose divorce or you can choose annulment. The question remains, which is better and which is right for you?
Each comes with potential benefits and possible drawbacks, and each fits different circumstances. No two situations are ever the same, so what works for one case may not work in another. Divorce may be the right choice in one instance, while annulment works perfectly for another.
Divorce is by far the more common choice. The biggest reason for this is because you almost always have to meet certain qualifications to receive an annulment. But if you do qualify for an for one, the proceedings are often faster, cheaper, and more favorable in the end. Before you consider a divorce, you should look to see if you fall under the categories that allow for annulment.
Different states have different sets of rules about qualifying for annulment. They’re often similar and based on comparable statutes, but there they do diverge in certain regards. We can cover the regulations for California, but wherever you live, it’s important to check with a professional. A divorce or family law lawyer where you live should be able to provide more answers and clarity.
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Qualifying for Annulment
You can annul a marriage if something is fundamentally wrong at its inception. This includes cases of bigamy, polygamous relationships, or instances of incest.
Of these, bigamy, or when one spouse is already married, is the most common. Sure, it sounds like the plot of a bad made-for-cable movie, but it’s not often as dramatic as one spouse having multiple secret families squirreled away across the country. This usually happens in cases where a spouse disappeared, ran off, has been out of contact for five years, or may even be presumed dead. But if this individual does turn up at some point, the subsequent marriage may qualify for annulment.
Even if there was no fundamental fault from the beginning, if marriage was forced, you may also qualify for annulment. This most commonly occurs in cases where one spouse was too intoxicated to realize what was happening. We’re not talking drunk, but intoxicated to the point of being of unsound mind. It may also apply if one person is deemed unable or unfit to make decisions of this nature.
Fraud may render a marriage voidable, though there are qualifiers. This fraud must go deep, to the very essence of the marital relationship. Misrepresentations of this nature include a variety of potential elements. The intention never to live with the spouse, the promise to have children without intention to do so, concealing a criminal record, hiding a sexually transmitted disease, covering up impotence or sterility, and the intent to enter the marriage solely to obtain a green card. These and others may also meet the criteria for annulment.
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Divorce vs. Annulment: Which is the Best Choice?
When weighing divorce versus annulment, one of the greatest advantages annulment offers is time. Most states require a waiting period for divorce. This means you have to wait a minimum amount of time between filing the paperwork and your divorce becoming final. Yet again, this varies from state to state; some are longer, while others are relatively short. For example, Washington has a 90-day wait, though in Oregon it can be as little as 14 days.
In California, this waiting period is six months. When it comes to annulment, however, there is no such waiting period. You are legally separated the day the court rules on your annulment. This is a big draw for many people.
Another advantage is that courts often look kindly on people seeking legitimate annulments. These may be cases where one party has been misled, lied to, or wronged in one way or another. This can lead to favorable rulings for the person filing for annulment. If you are claiming an annulment on fraud or other particularly moving factual situations, you may find the court more likely to rule in your favor.
This is an important piece to consider. Contrary to popular belief, annulment doesn’t necessarily erase a marriage. It cancels a marriage, and technically it never existed in the first place, but that doesn’t erase all the consequences. Depending on the length of your relationship, the complexity of the situation, your shared marital property, and other obligations, you may still be required to pay some form of support. If you have children, you still must go through the process of establishing custody.
When facing a choice between divorce and annulment, you have many factors to consider. But if you do meet the criteria and qualify for annulment, it’s almost always to your advantage to choose that option. As is so often the case, if you have questions, it’s in your best interest to consult an experienced divorce lawyer who can offer advice as how to proceed and if you qualify.
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