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Is Annulling Your Marriage a Good Alternative to Divorce?

Britney Spears did it. So did Kim Kardashian. But that doesn't necessarily mean annulling your marriage is an option for everyone.

Divorce is a legal end to a marriage but annulment is a different process. At the end, it's as if the marriage never existed under the law. That allows you to avoid the division of property and distribution of alimony that comes with divorce.

To call annulment an alternative to divorce isn't quite fair. You can end a marriage for any reason, or none at all, with a divorce. But you can only get an annulment if you qualify.

Let's be clear though: There are two kinds of annulments.

The first is the religious kind that dissolves your marriage in the eyes of your faith. That may be necessary if you want to remarry in your place of worship, but it won't change your legal status. A religious annulment does not legally end a marriage.

A civil annulment dissolves your marriage in the eyes of the law. But you can only do it if your marriage was invalid.

Keep in mind that a marriage is a contract, so like any other agreement it can be void from the start or voidable at the request of one party.

A void marriage is one that was illegal when it happened. That could be because one person was already married or because the spouses are closely related (i.e., incest).

A voidable marriage is one that isn't necessarily illegal but could be unenforceable if a party chooses to raise the issue. That generally happens if one person didn't legally consent to the marriage for some reason.

To legally consent to any contract, including marriage, the person must understand the terms and agree to them. That is impossible if one of the persons is legally insane, intoxicated, underage, mentally incapable, or the marriage happened through duress or fraud.

Additionally, a marriage can be annulled if the spouses haven't consummated the marriage, either because they can't or won't.

To get an annulment you'll have to prove to a judge that at least one of these factors makes your marriage invalid. Without that, the only thing you can get is a divorce.

Some states also have a limit on how long after your marriage you can ask for an annulment, but Arizona isn't one of them. You just have to prove your case, no matter how long the marriage went on.

Still, you're more likely to succeed if the marriage was short.

For many people, annulment won't be an option. But if you think your situation fits these factors, talk to your attorney about whether it will work for you.

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