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Understanding the difference between an annulment and a divorce

Thanks to the nonchalance with which many complex legal terms are used in the popular media, it's no wonder that people commonly misunderstand important issues. Indeed, while this typically happens in the area of criminal procedure thanks in large part to the popularity of detective stories, it can also happen in admittedly less flashy areas of the law, such as estate planning, bankruptcy law and, of course, family law.

By way of illustration, consider the term annulment, which thanks to television, many people might use interchangeably with the term divorce. As we'll see, however, the two are completely different.

At the outset, it's important to understand that while a divorce serves to legally dissolve a marriage under Georgia law, an annulment serves to declare a marriage null and void under Georgia law from the time the couple says, "I do." In other words, an annulment is a legal decree that makes it as if a marriage never actually happened.

The next question to naturally arise then is what the practical advantage is of pursing an annulment over a divorce.

In addition to essentially eliminating any record of your marriage by declaring it invalid, an annulment can also serve to determine ownership of joint property and debts, and enable a person to restore their former name. From a strictly non-legal perspective, it can also serve to remove what some perceive as a stigma associated with divorce, something that can grant peace of mind or make it easier for people to pursue a subsequent marriage through their faith.

Whatever the reason a person has for pursuing an annulment, it's important to understand that they are only granted in limited and somewhat unusual circumstances, something we'll examine in a future post.

If you would like to learn more about pursuing an annulment or your options as they relate to divorce if an annulment is not an option, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more. 

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Hecht Family Law
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