Marriage Annulment

Marriage annulment and divorce are two ways you can end your marriage- but they have very different consequences. It is important to understand which of these two options is the right one for you when you no longer wish to be married to the person who you have legally wed.

What is Marriage Annulment?

Marriage annulment means that your marriage is declared null and void. It is as if the marriage never existed at all once it has been annulled. There are very limited circumstances in which it is possible to get your marriage annulled. A judge may grant an annulment only if one of the following is true:

  • Your marriage is to a close relative like a parent, a child, a grandparent or a sibling.
  • One or both spouses were already legally married at the time that you wed.
  • You did not have the mental capacity to agree to marry or to understand the marriage ceremony at the time when you entered into the marriage.
  • Either spouse was under the age of 18 at the time the marriage occurred.
  • The marriage was entered into under conditions of fraud or duress (i.e. you were forced into the marriage because of threats or circumstances).

If you believe one of these circumstances applies to your marriage, Owen Hodge Lawyers can help you to apply for an annulment of your marriage in the relevant court. Your divorce lawyer can help you to go through the process of getting your other spouse served, representing you in a hearing to determine if the marriage should be annulled, and making the most convincing arguments possible for why the marriage needs to end.

What is a Divorce?

Divorce doesn’t declare your marriage void; it dissolves the marital union while still recognizing that the legal relationship existed. This means that your marriage is recognized, but the court makes an order that dissolves the partnership on a permanent basis. Any couple can divorce if there are irreconcilable differences and either or both spouses no longer wish to remain in the marriage. In other words, if the marriage has irretrievably broken down then a divorce may be granted.

What are the Key Differences between Marriage Annulment and Divorce?

The key differences between divorce and annulment is that divorce dissolves a valid marriage, while annulment declares a marriage null and void which means that it does not satisfy the requirements of a valid marriage. Some key factors include:

  • Conditions for annulment are more restrictive. If you do not fit the narrow criteria established to annul your marriage, your only option will be divorce.
  • Annulment means you won’t be considered divorced. This is important to some people if they don’t want a subsequent relationship to be a second marriage. However, it is important to recognize the difference between annulment by the courts and annulments by a religious institution. The decision of your priest, pastor, rabbi or other religious leader to annul a marriage has no impact on whether a judge will annul the marriage and vice versa.
  • Annulment doesn’t have a concurrent process for resolving custody or property division. The divorce process makes it possible for you to negotiate these issues with your spouse or have the court make decisions on these matters if you cannot agree. When a marriage is annulled, the court declares your marriage void but does not help you with the practical process of ending your shared life. If you annul your marriage, property has to be divided up within 12 months of the date of the annulment. If you cannot come to an agreement on the issues of property division or custody division, you will need to file a separate application with the court to help resolve these issues. Family dispute resolution can sometimes be attempted to help you agree on the issues without involving the courts.

After considering these key differences between annulment and divorce, you can decide which procedure is the appropriate method in your circumstances. Whether you decide to annul your marriage or whether you want the marriage dissolved through the process of divorce, you are not permitted to re-marry until the legal process ends. This means you should not try to get married again until the annulment order becomes final or until the divorce order becomes final.

Getting Legal Help

Ending a relationship can be stressful, and it can also have a significant impact on your future. You need to protect your access to shared marital property and ensure that you do everything you can to protect your relationship with your children. This means making smart choices about whether to divorce or annul your marriage and engaging a legal advocate who is on your side and will ensure your best interests are looked after as you go through the process of dividing property, assets and determine custody issues.

Owen Hodge Lawyers have extensive experience representing clients throughout Australia during both annulment proceedings and divorce proceedings. We can provide you with the legal advice necessary to protect your interests from the time that you decide you no longer wish to remain married until your case has been finally resolved. Call today at 1800 770 780 or contact us via ohl@owenhodge.com.au to schedule a consultation with one of our family law experts.