Divorce Versus Annulment

Examining the Differences in the Most Common Ways to End a Marriage

They both are a means to an end. An annulment completely erases the wedding and marriage from history. Divorce acknowledges the union existed but legally ends it.

In our day in age, one would think we’ve all come to accept that marriages end. Pencils do have erasers, after all. But for some, the shameful stigma of failure is enough to leave them wishing the marriage hadn’t occurred in the first place.

That said, annulments aren’t easy to come by.

Reasons for an Annulment


When Actress Renée Zellweger filed for an annulment in 2005 from singer Kenny Chesney after four months of marriage, she cited fraud as her reason for doing so. She was eventually granted her annulment.

Fraud could mean any number of things. One spouse could have lied about something that deeply impacted the other spouse. And that could be about anything from their ability to have children, marrying to gain citizenship, or one of them could’ve been underage at the time they married.


A few years ago in the UK, twins who were separated at birth found out they were siblings after having married. They later sought to have their marriage annulled in a secret court hearing.

Although rare, unintentional incest does happen. In those cases, courts must give room for unique situations.


Bigamy occurs when a person marries someone new while still legally married to their prior spouse.


It applies most to cases in which one person is coerced into marrying another. This is probably most obvious with teen brides in certain fundamentalist religions.

Temporary Intoxication

Britney Spears was hanging out with her childhood friend, Jason Alexander, one night in Las Vegas. The two got married that night in 2004, and 55 hours later, their marriage was annulled.

Disability or Mental Illness

Either one or both of the spouses could have entered the marriage without understanding the consequences. Sometimes mentally capable people marry someone with a disability.

No Consummation of the Marriage

A marriage in which the parties have not engaged in sexual activity can end in an annulment.

Marriage Prohibited by Law

In the past, marriage was inaccessible to same-sex and interracial couples. Thankfully, we are becoming a more progressive society. But there could be actual legitimate reasons for a marriage to be considered an illegal union that we haven’t covered here.

Religious Annulments

In certain religions, like the Roman Catholic church, for example, you can actually receive a religious annulment after getting a civil divorce. This annulment allows both parties to remarry someone in their religion.

Divorce Versus AnnulmentReasons for Divorce

Divorce is complicated. Depending on your state, you may have both no-fault and fault divorce options. In a no-fault divorce, neither is blamed for the breakup.

In an at-fault divorce, one spouse wants the other to have the responsibility of being blamed for ending the marriage. Many states, however, no longer recognize fault divorces.

An at-fault divorce generally includes:


This could be a serious addiction to anything from drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc.


One or both spouses had affairs.


Whether physical or emotional, one spouse subjects the other to domestic abuse.


Sometimes one spouse will leave the other.

Mental Illness

One spouse could have developed an incurable mental illness.

Prison Sentence

If one commits a crime, is convicted, and is sent away to prison for a significant amount of time.

Objections to At-Fault Divorce

You can object to an at-fault divorce for these common reasons.


In collusion, both spouses agree that one of them will take the fault for whatever allegation the other cooked up. It was a common practice long ago when two people grew tired of their marriage and wanted an easy way out.


The acceptance of a certain type of bad behavior. If the marriage was an open one, and one of them tries to file an at-fault based divorce claiming adultery, it’ll backfire. It can be difficult to prove condonation as not everyone will commit adultery.


Connivance occurs when one suspects the other is cheating. An elaborate scheme gets cooked up to catch the deceitful partner in the act.

For example: Say a woman knows her husband is struggling with sex addiction. She invites her female friend over to entice her husband. The wife arrives home to find her man in bed with her friend, just as she planned.

In court, she alleges adultery. He could argue that his wife set him up and connived him into it.


Someone made you do it. If a wife accuses her husband of domestic abuse, he could claim she provoked him by hitting him first. It’s taboo to talk about this but male domestic violence exists. In these cases, men are victims just like women are.

Often, may star in the relationship because they are usually in denial. They want to protect their children, or their church encourages them to continue to work on the union. It’s the same reasons women stay.

In Conclusion

At the end of the day, most courts want to have a solution to the problem whether that means an annulment or divorce. Courts aren’t interested in keeping people together if they’re not interested in being together. In the end, it all depends on your specific set of circumstances and your state’s laws on whether you can file and be granted an annulment or divorce.



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