Any time a marriage is ending, it can be a little daunting to navigate the legal terminology. At Alexander & Ewert, we aim to remove the confusion by clarifying common divorce legal terms and advise and consult. We want our clients and community to understand all of the options out there to start working on the next chapter of their stories.
In today’s post, we will clarify a very common question: what is the difference between a divorce and an annulment, and which is right for me?
Divorce is considered the dissolution of a marriage, or the ending of the legal obligations that spouses have to each other. During a divorce, the court works with the separating spouses to divide the things that they own, the debts that they owe, and figure out if either spouse owes a duty to the other to continue to support the other through maintenance (also referred to as alimony or spousal support).
Annulments, however, legally render a marriage null and void, under the pretext that the marriage was never legally valid to begin with. In this process, there is no discussion of property division. There are times where maintenance can be ordered even when a marriage was invalid, contact us if you think that you may have this issue.
Unlike divorce, annulments can only be granted if they meet specific legal requirements, which can vary by state.
In Colorado, an annulment can be granted for the following reasons under C.R.S. § 14-2-110:
One or both spouses lacked the mental capacity to consent at the time of the marriage.
This is probably the most common reasons for annulment referenced in the media. One excellent example of this is the episode of “Friends” where Ross Geller and Rachel Green get married after a night of consuming way too much alcohol on a trip to Las Vegas In this example, both parties were too intoxicated to legally consent to the marriage at the time, and therefore, an annulment would likely be granted.
In this case, an annulment can be granted if one of the spouses is not able to consummate the marriage through sexual intercourse, and the other spouse did not know this at the time of the marriage.
Age of Consent
Annulments can also be granted if one or both spouses was under the legal age of consent to marry. In Colorado, the age of consent to marry is 18 years of age. With parental or guardian consent, a marriage can be granted to someone as young as 16 years of age. C.R.S. §14-2-109.5; C.R.S. §14-2-106
In these types of annulments, the marriage was agreed upon under false pretenses which are intentionally hidden by one spouse from the other. One famous example of this is the annulment of Larry and Joy Farr, a divorced couple who agreed to remarry because Larry Farr pretended to be dying of a terminal illness so that Joy would agree to remarry him. Other examples include marrying for a green card status, faking a pregnancy to obtain a marriage, etc.
This typically means the marriage is initiated under duress, such as one spouse threatening or blackmailing the other.
As silly as it may sound, yes, some people marry others as a joke or dare. Luckily, this qualifies for an annulment.
This can occur for many reasons, such as one spouse still being legally married to another person, or if there is a familial relation between the two spouses, etc. This reason for annulment can vary greatly as it is dependent upon the laws of the state.
We hope you enjoyed learning about the differences between divorce and annulment!
If you find that your marriage is ending, or you believe your marriage could qualify for an annulment, please reach out to us! As the local Divorce Lawyers in Fort Collins, CO, we are here to advise, council, and help our clients and we are confident that we can help you too.
C.R.S. §14-2-106 – Licenses to Marry – https://bit.ly/3O4HGT9
C.R.S. §14-2-109.5 – Common Law Marriage – age restriction – https://bit.ly/3tHCDA1
C.R.S. § 14-2-110 – Prohibited Marriages – https://bit.ly/3OiGj32
C.R.S. § 14-2-111 – Putative Spouse – https://bit.ly/3bbYY2l
In re D.P.G., 472 P.3d 567 (Colo. App. 2020) – https://bit.ly/3Qr7qux
In re Marriage of J.M.H, 143 P.3d 1116 (Colo. App. 2006) – https://bit.ly/3mXKXYw