What’s the Difference Between Divorce and Marriage Annulment?

A man points to his wedding ring on a table as his partner takes hers off

“Annulment” is a popular buzzword that gets thrown around when divorce is on the cards. But in reality, annulment is quite separate from divorce and has a unique set of legal requirements and processes. To determine the right option for your circumstances, it helps to know a little about the family law rules surrounding marriage annulment and divorce.

What’s the Difference?

To begin with, divorce is the legal ending of a marriage when the relationship breaks down, while annulment is the cancellation of a marriage by declaring it null and void. In other words, a divorce ends a marriage while an annulment declares that the marriage was never legal or genuine to begin with. Some other core differences include the legal grounds for divorce or annulment and the processes you need to go through to achieve the final result.

What Legal Requirements Must be Met?

Divorce: The only requirement for a divorce is the ‘irretrievable breakdown’ of the marriage. This is proved when you and your partner have been separated for 12 months with no likelihood of getting back together.

Annulment: There are limited circumstances in which a marriage will be annulled by the court. As well as one party being an Australian citizen or living in Australia permanently, one of the following grounds must be met:

  • One of the parties was forced or tricked into the marriage
  • One of the parties did not give full consent
  • One of the parties was underage
  • You were not able to understand what the marriage ceremony meant
  • One of the parties was already married to another person
  • The marriage was between close family members
  • The proper legal requirements for marriage were not met

What Are the Processes?

Divorce: The process for divorce can be lengthy. If you’ve been married less than two years, you’re required to attend marriage counselling to try to avoid further breakdown of the marriage. If you’ve been married for longer than two years, you will need to prove that you’ve been separated for 12 months in order to apply for a divorce. Speak to your family solicitors to find out more about the legal side of divorce and the processes involved.

Annulment: Your family solicitors in Melbourne can help you acquire the appropriate documents and applications, which you will then need to “serve” to your former partner. If they disagree with your reasons for annulling the marriage, they may counter-serve an affidavit explaining why. After that, you will need to attend a hearing, at which your family law solicitor will be present. The judge will review the evidence and make a decision as to whether the grounds for annulment are sufficient. If the court finds the evidence convincing, an annulment order will be granted.

If you’re considering applying for a divorce or marriage annulment in Victoria, speak to a family solicitor you can trust. The expert divorce solicitor at Robert Wood and Associates can help you understand and navigate the legal system to make your divorce or annulment as stress-free as possible.

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