What Is the Difference between a Divorce and an Annulment?

We frequently receive calls asking about how to get an annulment in New Mexico. There are two types of annulments: religious annulments and civil annulments. The two are very different in both how they occur and in their effect on the couple.

A religious annulment is granted by a church. For example, the Catholic Church can declare a marriage annulled, or invalid, on grounds established by the Church. You can read more about a Catholic religious annulment on the website for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

A religious annulment may change a couple’s status in the eyes of the church, but it has no effect on the couple’s status for any legal purpose, such as property disposition or taxes. Only a civil annulment legally changes the parties’ marital status.

The reasons civil annulments will be granted by a New Mexico judge are severely restricted by law to the following:

  • Age: One of the spouses was under age 18 and married without parental consent or was under age 16.
  • Bigamy: One of the spouses was already married.
  • Incest: The spouses are too closely related to one another, as defined by law.
  • Fraud or Deceit: One of the spouses was deceived in a way that renders his or her consent invalid. Possible examples include marrying only to obtain legal residence or marrying with no intention to have children, knowing that the other person wants children.

It is important to note that the parties can make some of these marriages valid by staying in them after a condition has passed. For example, if a spouse was under age 16 when married but stays married through age 18, he or she will have considered the marriage valid, and no court will grant an annulment.

When an annulment is granted, the result is that the marriage is considered to have never occurred. If none of the grounds for an annulment exist, a person who wants to terminate his or her marriage must ask for a divorce, known as a “dissolution” in New Mexico.

A divorce is very different from an annulment. It can be granted for many different reasons, including that the couple is incompatible. In other words, no one has to be at fault. Other potential grounds for a New Mexico divorce include cruel and inhuman treatment, adultery, and abandonment. You can read more about the grounds for marital dissolution in New Mexico at our earlier blog here.

Regardless of whether an annulment or a dissolution is in order, a marital breakup is hard on everyone involved, including the parties’ children. At Lightning Legal Group, we understand how difficult it can be to decide whether to end a significant relationship, but we also know how exciting it can be to start down a new path. We pride ourselves on tailoring our counsel to individual circumstances, and we can advise you about the options you have to end your marriage properly. Call today: (505) 247-2390.

Comments are closed