If you’ve decided your marriage needs to end, you’re probably looking for a simple yet effective method. Divorce is a common approach, but you may have heard of annulments and want to know if one will work for you.
The two methods are not interchangeable. There are distinct differences between annulments and divorces in Georgia. Knowing when each applies and their outcomes can save you time once you decide to end your marriage.
What is an Annulment?
Although divorces and annulments technically end marriages, they are very different approaches. A divorce is a legal dissolution of a marriage.
An annulment declares the marriage never happened or was never valid. You can only qualify for an annulment if the marriage was considered illegal or void.
According to Georgia’s laws, you cannot seek an annulment if you had children “as a result of the marriage.” An attorney may be able to help you explore annulments if you have children and you believe you still qualify.
Grounds for Annulments
It must be proved that the marriage was illegal in order to qualify for an annulment. Like divorces, you can have grounds for annulment, which include:
- You are related to your spouse. Relationships like parents and children, parents and stepchildren, grandparents and grandchildren, aunts and nephews, or uncles and nieces can qualify.
- You or your spouse lacked the mental capacity to enter a marriage contract.
- You were less than 16 years old at the time of marriage.
- You were forced into the marriage.
- You were fraudulently induced into the marriage.
- Your spouse was already in a valid marriage at the time of your marriage with them.
It’s possible to have grounds for an annulment without being granted one. For instance, if you discovered you were being fraudulently induced into a marriage but lived with your spouse in a “marital” sense anyway, you may have “ratified” the union, meaning it can’t be annulled.
A family law attorney can help you determine if you qualify for an annulment or need to seek a divorce to end your marriage.
Annulments: Religious or Civil?
Georgia grants civil annulments in cases where the marriage was considered illegal. However, some people seek religious annulments, which must be completed through their church or house of worship.
Some religions may not allow congregants to remarry if they’ve been divorced. Annulments in effect “erase” a marriage, so the spouses could remarry if granted one.
Annulment Process: How to Get an Annulment
Although they accomplish different outcomes, the annulment procedure is like getting a divorce. If you qualify for an annulment, your attorney will file a petition with your county’s superior court.
The petition will name you and your spouse, the county where you were married, and the reason for the annulment. There is room on the form to provide further explanation if necessary.
Once your petition has been filed, the court will send your spouse a copy. If they fail to contest the issue, an order to grant the annulment can be issued 30 days after they are served. If your spouse challenges the issue, you may have the right to a jury trial.
Outcome of an Annulment
Annulments and divorces can have similar outcomes. Once an annulment is granted, you’re considered single and eligible for remarriage.
It’s possible to receive temporary alimony after an annulment. A court can also equitably divide any joint property during an annulment case.
Call a Cobb County Family Law Attorney
If your marriage was never valid, you’ll need to seek solutions. You might think an annulment is the best option to avoid the stigma of a divorce. But if you don’t qualify for one, an annulment will not be effective in your situation.
While annulments are typically granted under rare circumstances, if you believe an annulment is right for you, call the Gentry Law Firm. Our family law attorneys understand the nuances of annulment law, and we’re prepared to hear your story. We can help you build your case and prepare paperwork to end your void marriage. You’ll need to prove it was an illegal union from the start, and we can investigate your situation to secure the best outcome.