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Understanding the difference between an annulment and a divorce - II

As we discussed in a previous post, it's not uncommon for people to misunderstand important legal concepts in areas like criminal procedure, estate planning and even family law thanks to popular television shows, films and books.

By way of example, we started discussing divorce and annulment, two very distinct legal mechanisms for ending a marriage that many people -- producers included -- mistakenly believe to be interchangeable.

To recap, an annulment is a legal decree that essentially declares a marriage null and void, making it as if it never actually happened in the eyes of the law. Conversely, a divorce simply serves to legally dissolve a marriage under Georgia law.

Another key distinction between an annulment and a divorce is that while the overwhelming number of divorces in the state are no fault -- meaning all it takes to file is for one spouse to state that the marriage is "irretrievably broken" -- the latter can only be filed in limited and somewhat unusual circumstances.

Indeed, Georgia law declares that an annulment may only be granted if the filing spouse meets one of the following conditions:

  • They did not have the mental capacity to enter a contract/marriage.
  • They were under 16-years-old when they entered the marriage.
  • They are related to their spouse in an impermissible capacity.
  • Their spouse was already legally married at the time of their marriage.
  • They were forced into the marriage against their will.
  • They were persuaded to enter the marriage by fraudulent means.  

Another popular misconception people have is that unlike a divorce, an annulment is something that can be granted fairly quickly to those couples who have been married for only a short time.

The reality, however, is that Georgia law makes no provision -- or special exceptions -- for those who have only been married for weeks or months, and now want an annulment. The reality is that they must meet the grounds outlined above or pursue a divorce. In fact, regardless of whether a person files for divorce or seeks an annulment, they must first have lived in Georgia for six months.

Consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more if you have questions about the possibility of pursuing an annulment or your choices regarding divorce.

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