Annulment v. Divorce

In Colorado, a married couple who wishes to legally end their relationship often get divorced, but annulment may also be an option. These two proceedings both legally end the union, but they are not the same thing. A divorce terminates the marital relationship, while an annulment declares the marriage invalid in the first place. Before you decide to get divorced or have your marriage annulled, there are some things to consider.

The annulment grounds

Some people believe that an annulment is an “easy” way to end a short marriage, but it’s often no easier than getting a divorce – and sometimes it might be even more difficult. The outcomes of an annulment and divorce are essentially the same in the sense that the marriage no longer exists legally, but an annulment may appeal to a person who does not want to divorce for religious reasons or someone who wants to reinstate any payment or benefit lost because of the marriage.

To get an annulment in this state, you must have grounds that qualify for it. The criteria for an annulment include any one of the following:

  • At the time of marriage, one or both spouses lacked the capacity to consent, such as a mental capacity lost due to alcohol or drugs
  • One spouse lacks the ability to consummate the marriage, and the other spouse was not aware of this when they got married
  • One spouse was under the age of legal consent to marriage, which is 18 in Colorado or 16 with consent from guardians, parents or a state family court to marry
  • One spouse went into the marriage relying on a misrepresentation or fraudulent act from the other spouse that went down to the “essence” of the marriage
  • One or both spouses were under duress when married or married as a dare or jest
  • The marriage was void due to a violation of state laws, such as bigamy or incest

Since the “essence of marriage” grounds for an annulment is situational, it’s best to speak to an experienced Colorado family law attorney to explore the possibility of an annulment if this applies to you. He or she will review all the details surrounding the marriage and your claim of fraud or misrepresentation to help determine whether you have valid grounds for annulment that the court will accept. You can still get divorced if you are unable to get an annulment, but going for an annulment first will waste time and money if your marriage does not qualify for one.

The no-fault divorce

If you don’t think an annulment has any benefit in your case and you can’t or don’t wish to prove the grounds to get one, you may be better off with a divorce. Colorado is a no-fault state, which means that you do not have to prove any reason for divorcing your spouse. As with annulment, you will address matters like property division, child custody and child support during the proceedings. The length and cost of a divorce will vary by case.

You are not required to have an attorney for a divorce, but it’s generally advisable to get one. Your daily life and finances will be impacted on every level by the divorce, so having someone with legal knowledge and experience by your side can prove invaluable to the outcome of your case. This is even more applicable in cases involving children or other complicated areas, such as when there is a high level of assets involved in the marital estate.

It’s important to note that in Colorado, unlike other states, the same laws for property division, child support, child custody and other divorce-related matters still apply to invalidated marriages. This means that ultimately, your property rights and other factors will be handled the same way whether you are divorced or your marriage is annulled. Regardless of the approach you chose, you will be addressing important areas of your life as your case moves forward.

Whether an annulment or divorce is the most suitable option for you depends on your circumstances. Speak to a family law attorney today so you know what your options are and can learn all the benefits and downsides of each approach in your specific case.