When it comes to dissolving a marriage, two legal options often come to mind: annulment and divorce. Both provide ways to end a marriage, but they differ in terms of their legal implications and requirements.

In this blog, we will delve into the dissimilarities and similarities between annulment and divorce, specifically how these processes work in Missouri.

Dissolving a Marriage: Understanding Annulment

A marriage annulment is a legal process that declares a marriage null and void, essentially rendering it as if it never existed. It is a way to declare that it was an invalid marriage from the beginning.

dissolving a marriage

In order to pursue an annulment, specific grounds must be established, which vary by jurisdiction. Common grounds for annulment of marriage include fraud, bigamy, incest, lack of consent, or one party being underage at the time of marriage.

It is important to note that annulments are relatively rare compared to divorces. To qualify, more stringent criteria must be met.

Dissolving a Marriage: Exploring Divorce

Divorce, on the other hand, is a legal process that terminates a valid marriage. Unlike an annulment, divorce recognizes that a legal marriage existed and aims to dissolve it.

Divorce laws may vary from state to state, but generally, no specific grounds need to be established.

Instead, most jurisdictions recognize no-fault divorces. This allows couples to dissolve their marriage based on irreconcilable differences or an irretrievable breakdown of the relationship.

However, fault-based grounds such as adultery, abuse, or abandonment can also be used in some cases.

Differences between Annulment and Divorce

While annulment and divorce share the common goal of ending a marriage, they differ significantly in their legal consequences.

  • Legal Status: An annulled marriage makes it so, legally, the marriage never existed. Divorce legally terminates a valid marriage.
  • Grounds for Termination: Annulment requires establishing specific grounds that render the marriage invalid, whereas divorce can be granted without proving fault in a “no-fault” jurisdiction.
  • Retroactive Effect: An annulment applies retroactively, treating the marriage as if it never occurred. A divorce takes effect from the date it is granted forward.
  • Spousal Rights: Annulled spouses are generally not entitled to spousal support or property division. In divorce, these issues are resolved through court proceedings.

Similarities between Annulment and Divorce

Despite their differences, annulment and divorce also share certain similarities:

  • Legal Process: Both annulment and divorce require legal procedures to be followed. This includes filing the necessary paperwork, attending court hearings, and potentially engaging in negotiations or mediation.
  • Legal Representation: It is advisable to seek legal counsel for both annulment and divorce cases, as the intricacies of family law can be complex and vary by jurisdiction.
  • Emotional Impact: Both annulment and divorce can have significant emotional and psychological effects on the parties involved.

Annulments and Divorces in Missouri

In Missouri, the presumption is strongly in favor of upholding the validity of marriages, reflecting a robust public policy supporting the institution of marriage. Consequently, obtaining an annulment can be challenging in Missouri.

annulment to marriage

In Missouri, annulments can be granted for two types of marriages: 1) “void” marriages, which are invalid marriages from the start. 2) “voidable” marriages, which are marriages that took place under settings that render them potentially invalid marriages.

Void marriages, ones that were always invalid include: 

  • bigamous or polygamous marriages. If one of the spouses is already married to another person, the subsequent marriage may be deemed. Yes. I have seen that circumstance arise where a divorce attorney failed to follow up with the court to see if it signed a divorce judgment. It did not. The client then remarried. 
  • incestuous marriages. Marriages between close relatives who are closely related by blood, such as siblings or parents and children, uncles and aunts and their respective nephews and nieces may be considered void. 
  • and one where a spouse lacked capacity. Marriages involving spouses either of whom are underage, mentally incapacitated, or lacking the legal capacity to consent to marriage may be deemed void.

On the other hand, voidable marriages are initially presumed to be valid.

Divorce can be granted based on either fault or no-fault grounds. Couples seeking a no-fault divorce must demonstrate that their marriage is irretrievably broken. A fault-based divorce requires evidence of grounds such as adultery, abuse, or abandonment.

Annulment and divorce are distinct legal processes that offer different solutions for terminating a marriage. Understanding the differences and similarities between these two options is crucial when facing the challenges of family law.

Navigating the complexities of family law can be overwhelming. If you are considering annulment or divorce in Missouri, Bruce Galloway is here to provide expert legal guidance and representation.

With years of experience in family law, our dedicated team can help you understand your rights, protect your interests, and guide you through the legal process. Contact the Bruce Galloway Law Firm today for a confidential consultation.