What Is the Difference Between an Annulment and a Divorce in Texas?

If you are in a marriage that is not working or needs to end, you may have heard of annulment as an alternative option to divorce.  For many, the idea that they might be able to get an annulment is attractive because they think it could be faster or cost less money.  However, the differences between a divorce and an annulment are more about who qualifies to use which option.  Once you understand the differences, it might be easy to determine which one is right for you.

Legal annulments are typically used to essentially “undo” a marriage that should not have been legal in the first place, while divorces seek to end a legal marriage.  Churches and religious organizations typically perform annulments as an alternative to divorce, but there are separate legal systems that you may have to go through even if you seek an annulment through the church.  Moreover, even someone who gets an annulment through their church may still need to file for divorce with the State of Texas.

Divorce and annulments are quite complicated, and there are often additional issues involving asset division or child custody to sort out.  For help with a divorce or annulment case, call The Queenan Law Firm today and set up a free legal consultation with our Dallas divorce attorneys.  Call (817) 476-1797.

Legal Annulment Vs. Divorce in Texas

Regardless of your faith or your religious views on divorce, the State of Texas has its own systems for starting and ending marriages.  While you may or may not have a religious ceremony, the state still keeps track of peoples’ official marital status and marriage licenses, and that marital status can only be ended early through either divorce or annulment.  The main difference between these two is simply the grounds that apply to divorce versus annulments since the rest of the process and procedures are surprisingly similar.

Divorce

People are probably most familiar with what a divorce is: a process of ending a legal marriage to return both parties to their former “single” status.  A divorce does nothing to erase the record of the marriage; it simply ends the marriage and allows both sides to move on with their lives.

In Texas, divorces can be granted on 7 different grounds:

  1. Insupportability divorces are no-fault divorces based on the grounds that the relationship is no longer working.
  2. Cruelty divorces are based on the grounds of abuse or mistreatment.
  3. Adultery divorces are based on cheating or infidelity.
  4. Divorces can also be based on the fact that one spouse has been sent to prison and will not return for at least a year.
  5. Abandonment divorces are based on one party having left the other for at least a year.
  6. Divorces can also be granted if the parties moved apart and were separated for at least 3 years.
  7. Lastly, divorces can be based on one party’s confinement in a mental hospital for at least 3 years without signs of improvement.

In these cases, one party sues the other for divorce and must choose the grounds that apply to their case.  Many divorces are based on insupportability and “irreconcilable differences” rather than accusing either side of any wrongdoing.  However, fault-based divorces for cruelty or adultery are sometimes appropriate.

Annulment

While divorces end a marriage, an annulment essentially rewrites the records and undoes the marriage.  Annulling a marriage basically means that your marriage didn’t count, whether that be because there was a problem with the procedures, a problem with consent, a problem with either party’s ability to function as a spouse, or some other problem.

Grounds for annulment in Texas include the following:

  • Getting married between ages 16 and 18 is illegal without parental consent, so marriages can be annulled if you somehow got married anyway while underage – but you have to file for this before turning 18.
  • You have to be able to consent to getting married, so if you were under the effects of drugs or alcohol, you may be able to file for an annulment if you did not cohabitate since the wedding.
  • Finding out that either spouse is unable to have children, and that that was the case at the time of the marriage, is grounds for annulment.
  • Any fraud or coercion that pushes either side into getting married is grounds for annulment.
  • Mental incapacity that prevented either party from consenting to the marriage is grounds for annulment.
  • If either party hid that they were previously divorced, that can be grounds for annulment.
  • Marriages can be annulled if they happened during the required waiting period after applying for a marriage license since the license was not valid yet.

Divorces can also be considered “void” if the parties find out that they are related or that either party was still married to someone else.  In either case, getting married would have been illegal, so this marriage can’t legally last.

Church Annulments Vs. Legal Annulments in Texas

Many churches do not recognize divorce, so getting a legal divorce would not affect your marital status as far as the church is concerned.  However, some churches do recognize annulments and have their own grounds for annulment.  That process should be sought out through your church and may require paperwork or testimony separate from what your lawyer can help with.

One thing that is important to understand is that ending your marriage in the church and ending your marriage in the eyes of the State of Texas are separate things.  Even if you do not believe in divorce as a religious concept, there may be no legal annulment options that apply to your situation.  In that case, the only legal ways to proceed are by remaining married (potentially living as a separated couple) or by getting divorced.

Whether you are legally divorced, are legally separated, or get a legal annulment, issues of property division, child custody, child support, and spousal support might be important to your case, so contact an experienced Fort Worth Divorce Attorney today.

Call Our Texas Divorce and Annulment Lawyers for a Free Consultation

If you are considering ending your marriage and want to learn more about the differences between divorce and annulment in Texas, call The Queenan Law Firm’s divorce lawyers today at (817) 476-1797.