What is the difference between Annulment and Divorce in Connecticut?
Many people we speak with at Freed Marcroft are understandably confused about the difference between annulment and divorce in Connecticut. Adding an extra layer of complexity, there are two kinds of annulment, legal and religious. Read on for a clear explanation of the differences.
Religious Annulment Versus Legal Annulment in ConnecticutThere are two types of annulments in Connecticut -- a legal (also called "civil") annulment and religious annulment. In both instances -- unlike with divorce -- an annulment it is usually retroactive, meaning that an annulled marriage is considered to be invalid from the beginning almost as if it had never taken place.
The main difference -- and it is a very important one -- is that an annulment granted by a church or clergy member has no effect on your legal, marital status as far as the State of Connecticut is concerned. A couple who seeks a religious annulment must also seek either a legal annulment, a divorce, or a legal separation in order to end their marriage legally.
Connecticut Legal Annulment Versus DivorceA civil annulment is based on the theory that a marriage was void when it took place, meaning that, in the eyes of the law, an annulled married never existed because the couple was never legally married in the first place. In other words, what everyone thought was a marriage was never actually a marriage at all. An annulment decree, in effect, declares that a marriage never existed.
By contrast, in Connecticut, a divorce ends an existing, valid marriage and is based on causes and problems that arise after the wedding ceremony.
Short Marriages and Annulment in ConnecticutMostly thanks to pop culture, often people think they can ask for an annulment because they have been married for a very short time. But in Connecticut, an annulment is usually only possible when the marriage was not legal in the first place (for example, if one of the people was underage or already married).
Eligibility for a Legal Annulment in ConnecticutEligibility, or "grounds," for annulment of a Connecticut marriage fall into two general categories: those specifically set forth by statute, and those recognized pursuant to common law. ("Common law" means the legal rules that have been made by judges as they issue rulings on cases, as opposed to rules and laws made by the legislature in statutes.) The law on all questions concerning divorce and related family issues such as annulment is complicated, and I strongly recommend that you consult with an attorney with experience in family law to get legal advice when you are considering annulment.
Here are some of the grounds for annulment in Connecticut:
1. The spouses are closely related (legally known as “consanguinity,” or a blood relationship, or “affinity,” meaning a close family relationship). In Connecticut, you cannot marry a parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, sibling, parent’s sibling, sibling’s child, stepparent, or stepchild.
2. One spouse is already legally married to someone else at the time of the second marriage (“bigamy”).
3. One spouse was mentally incompetent at the time of the marriage ceremony. Connecticut statutes require that before a marriage license can be issued to anyone under the supervision and control of a conservator or guardian the written consent of that person must be obtained, so a marriage under those circumstances may be eligible for an annulment.
4. The marriage ceremony was performed by a person who was not legally authorized to perform a wedding. (There are many exceptions and a lot more to say about this ground, so if you have questions please reach out to us.)
5. One or both spouses consented to the marriage only because of force, fraud, or duress (coercion) from another person.
6. One spouse hides from the other spouse a health problem or physical condition that has a direct impact on matters that go to the essence, or heart, of the marriage.
Next StepsThere are many reasons that annulments are rare these days and that divorce is so much more common. For example, it's complicated to prove that a marriage is null, void or voidable. An experienced divorce and family law team can help you to understand the difference between annulment and divorce so that you will be set up to choose the process to end your marriage that is most in line with your goals.