Civil Litigation Lawyer
There are two legal procedures for ending a marriage between two people: annulment and divorce. The end result of each is that the union is no longer recognized. They can no longer take advantage of any of the benefits of marriage to their former spouse, nor do they have any matrimonial responsibilities to one another. Each is free to remarry if they wish.
However, divorce and annulment are not interchangeable with one another. Though the end result is the same, they are very different processes. Typically local civil litigation lawyers are sought after to represent a client seeking a divorce. They will provide guidance and advocate for the client through all stages of the procedure.
1. Validity of the Marriage
A divorce dissolves the marriage but does not call its validity into question. It acknowledges that the marriage was valid when it took place. Essentially, a divorce decree states in legal terms that a legitimate marriage between two people existed at one point but has now come to an end.
The point of an annulment is to dissolve a marriage that never should have happened in the first place. It acknowledges that, from the beginning, the marriage was invalid based on information that was unknown to one or both of the spouses at the time that it took place. From a legal point of view, an annulment makes it as though the marriage never existed.
2. Grounds for Dissolution
At one point, divorce was only available if one spouse could prove fault on the part of the other. However, all 50 states now recognize the validity of no-fault divorce. This means that any spouse can file for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences and the court will almost certainly grant it. Contesting a divorce on those grounds only proves the validity of the complaint.
On the other hand, a couple cannot get an annulment unless they can prove that they have a good reason for it. They have to show evidence to the court that the marriage was never valid and should never have taken place. Examples of grounds for an annulment include:
- Lack of consent
- Concealment of important facts
- Misrepresentation or fraud
3. Religious Dimension
A divorce is a civil manner in any case. There are also civil annulment procedures based on the grounds already described. However, because some religions do not recognize divorce, they have their own means of religious annulment to show that the marriage was never valid according to the tenets of their faith. Religious annulment uses its own grounds and is entirely separate from court proceedings. A couple receiving a religious annulment still has to go through civil divorce proceedings for the marriage to be legally dissolved.
Laws vary between states. If it is concluded that a divorce or annulment is a viable course of action, experts recommend hiring a civil litigation lawyer who is licensed in the state in which the marriage was initially consecrated. For example, if your marriage was initially consecrated, an civil litigation lawyer may be hired to assist with the legal procedure. A local lawyer will be able to answer questions about whether divorce or annulment is a better option for you, taking into account local state laws.