Even couples who are convinced their marriage is over hesitate to take the final steps toward divorce during the holiday season. Not wanting to disrupt their families during what is supposed to be a happy time, they put off the inevitable. For that reason, January has become the month in which the most divorce filings are recorded, earning it the name “divorce month.” (1)
Statistics say that half of all marriages end in divorce, but when considering that number, one must remember that statistics are merely estimations coupled with assumptions. (2) Still, the divorce rate in this country remains fairly high. Some people looking to end their marriage, however, prefer annulments over divorce. One reason is that a legal annulment can pave the way for a religious annulment down the road.
While both divorce and annulment would legally end a marriage, there are significant differences between the two. As with divorce, the rules governing annulment vary by state. However, there are some general criteria which must be met in order for a couple to qualify for an annulment. That criteria includes:
– One of the partners being under the legally required age or not having the mental capacity to enter into a marriage without proper consent;
– One of the partners concealing a significant fact such as having children, having been convicted of a felony, having a sexually transmitted disease, being impotent, etc.;
– One of the partners misrepresenting him or herself or the marriage otherwise being based on false information;
– One of the partners being under duress or otherwise forced or coerced into the marriage. (3)
Additionally, if either party was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the marriage and later regrets their decision, they may file for an annulment within 60 days of the marriage. Finally, annulments may be granted if the marriage was never consummated for whatever reason. (3)
The main difference between divorce and annulment is that while a divorce ends a marriage, an annulment treats the marriage as if it never happened; the legal contract of marriage is considered null and void. That’s the fact that makes it possible for people of some religions to later attain a religious annulment and remarry in their respective place of worship. (3)
Annulments can be complicated, however. The process can be difficult and lengthy, sometimes requiring testimony from experts or witnesses in order to prove the grounds under which the annulment is being sought. A number of states including New Jersey allow for no-fault divorce which essentially means that neither party has to be accused of something for a divorce to be granted. This makes the process of getting a divorce quicker and easier. (3)
Despite the ease of obtaining a no-fault divorce, protecting your rights and obtaining what you are entitled to can be complicated. Divorce is often a highly emotional time for those involved. The desire to end a bad relationship can lead people to make rash decisions and leave them without all the protections they deserve. Taking the time to negotiate a fair and equitable settlement is important, but some people don’t have the emotional resilience to do this on their own. An experienced family law attorney can help assure you receive the settlement to which you are entitled.