Maria Versus Arnold: Divorce Versus Annulment

Posted May 20, 2011 in Your Family & The Law by Arthur Buono

There was a nice headline in the NY Post about Maria Shriver wanting to "Ahnnul" her marriage. Whether Maria can get an "Ahnnulment" in the Catholic Church we’ll leave to a higher authority. Assuming it were possible under state law, though, how does one choose between annulment and divorce?

  • Annulment reserved for invalid marriages
  • Divorce or dissolution can be had for valid or invalid marriages
  • Grounds, support and property division, and time three important factors
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Annulment Can Be Quicker, or Not

The choice to annul rather than divorce may hinge on a few important factors. In California, and many other states, no grounds are required for divorce other than "irreconcilable differences." On the other hand, cause must be proved for an annulment. It can be costly and embarrassing to prove grounds like bigamy, incest, fraud, physical or mental incapacity, or the like.

The next factor is availability of spousal support and division of property. In an annulment, the party seeking these must show that he or she is a "putative spouse." Being a putative spouse means having had a good faith belief the marriage was valid.

One factor favoring annulment though is time. Most places require at least one party to the marriage to be a resident of the state and locality for at least several months in order to get a divorce there. An annulment can be obtained without establishing residence. Likewise, time may have to elapse for a divorce to become final. This is not so with annulment.

Related Apps for Your Smartphone*

The Knot - mobile wedding checklist. Registration required
Divorce Apps "Cost & Prep" - are you ready to break the big news to your spouse? Maybe check all the hidden costs first. $.99

*Please note that these apps are for informational purposes only, and neither LexisNexis nor endorses these apps or accepts liability for their use.

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