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What is the Difference Between a Divorce and an Annulment?

By Tolison & Williams / May 13, 2019

Unfortunately not every marriage works out as planned. So it is in life. Getting separated from someone is an emotionally complicated process. And it's a legal undertaking as well. Knowing the right terms and the meaning behind them will help you navigate Colorado Divorce Law faster and lead to a more painless outcome for all parties involved.

The Key Differences Between a Divorce and an Annulment

When marriages end, most are terminated by a divorce judgment. A divorce judgment is the legal ending of a valid marriage, registered in Colorado. Because Colorado is a no-fault divorce state, a married couple can divorce without providing the court with any cause. One or both partners in the marriage must simply state that the marriage is broken beyond repair.

In rare instances, a marriage can be annulled, which in Colorado, is officially called a declaration of invalidity. In these cases, the courts agree that for some reason the marriage was never valid in the first place. Thus, it never existed.

Obtaining an annulment requires providing a court with evidence that the marriage was never valid. These reasons include:

  • Marriage between close family members
  • Any marriage where one or both partners were already married or in a domestic partnership
  • Marriage that was the result of coercion, force, or fraud
  • Any marital relationship where one or both spouses was younger than the age of consent
  • Marriages where one or both spouses was mentally incapacitated

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Annulment and Spousal Support

Because an annulled marriage never legally existed, it is relatively rare to obtain an order for spousal support in these situations. However, it isn't impossible. There are cases where the courts rule that it is appropriate for one spouse to pay the other maintenance, in spite of the marriage being invalid. In general, any order for spousal maintenance will only be given to the 'victim' spouse. That is the spouse who was the subject of any fraudulent or coercive behavior.

A traditional divorce (contested or uncontested) often assumes that some form of spousal support will be given to one party if they meet the legal criteria for it. 

Annulment and Child Support

If there are children born to a marriage, those children are still legitimate in the eyes of the court. An annulment does not reduce or eliminate either parental rights or responsibilities. However, if a parent’s conduct leading to the illegitimate marriage was abusive, coercive, or threatening, that could impact how the court rules regarding custody and visitation. 

Statute of Limitations

If you are seeking an annulment on the grounds of bigamy, you may do that at any time during your marriage. These are also the cases where it is quite likely to obtain an order for spousal and child support.

In other situations, there is a statute of limitation that applies. As a general rule, once a married person realizes that they have grounds for annulment, they must pursue that relatively quickly. If they choose not to, they legitimize the marriage in the eyes of the court.

Division of Property

Ideally, people seek an annulment before they become too financially entangled with one another. In these cases, the courts work to restore each person to their prior financial condition. However, in cases where property has been purchased together, or finances have been intermingled for some time, then the court may decide how property is to be divided. Again, if fraud or coercion exists the courts will work to protect the innocent party.

Denial of Annulment

Without a severe cause, most marriages are considered to be valid in the eyes of the court. Because of this, ending most marriages means pursuing a divorce, rather than seeking an annulment. If the court denies a petition for an order of invalidity, divorce is still a viable option.

A qualified, family law attorney can help you determine whether or not you should pursue an annulment. They can also provide advice on the impact that an annulment could have on your future. If you have any further questions, click below and get them answered.

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