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A couple signing divorce documents behind a judge gavel and two wedding rings. If circumstances have changed and you need to modify a divorce decree, contact a Cypress divorce modifications lawyer now.What is the Difference Between Annulment and Divorce?

In a divorce case, the court recognizes that a valid marriage existed, which is now over. On the other hand, for a couple to be eligible to file for an annulment, the court will need to recognize that the marriage was never legally valid.

An annulment may sound like an appealing option. However, it is important to understand whether you are eligible and what the differences are between the two.

At Skillern Firm, we are committed to taking the time to inform our clients so that they can make decisions from a place of clarity. We will answer all your questions and advise you based on your individual circumstances.

Remember, the outcome of issues related to a divorce will have a big impact on your future. It is important to have support from an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through the process while protecting your rights and interests.

Skillern Firm has offices in Houston and Sugar Land and supports people throughout the Greater Houston area. We provide comprehensive family law services, including mediation and litigation. Whatever the circumstances of your case, we are here to help.

Call us to schedule a consultation with an experienced family law attorney at 936-213-8479.

What is an Annulment?

A marriage annulment is a legal declaration that a marriage is invalid based on certain grounds that have existed since the beginning of the marriage. If a Judge grants a couple an annulment, it means that the marriage was never legally valid, and legally speaking, it will be as if it never happened.

It is important to note that if there is a death at a time when a marriage could have been annulled, then the annulment will not be granted. This helps avoid issues involving probate and estates.

There are two types of annulments: civil and religious.

Civil Annulments

A civil annulled marriage ends your marriage when granted by the Judge. Either spouse can seek an annulment by filing a petition with the court that states the grounds for annulment. The possible grounds for voidable marriages are laid out in Chapter 6 of the Texas Family Code; they are:

Underage Marriage

If one spouse was over the age of 16 but under 18 when they were married, and the marriage occurred without parental consent or court order, then the court could grant an annulment. However, once the person in question turns 18, an annulment will no longer be possible.

A petition for annulment for an underage spouse can be filed by a parent, guardian, or ‘next friend’ acting on their behalf. However, if a friend wishes to file the petition, they must do it within the first 90 days of the marriage.


If one spouse discovers that they are impotent soon after starting their marriage, then an annulment could be granted on these grounds.

In order for an annulment to be granted on the legal grounds of impotence, they must have been permanently impotent at the time of the marriage, and the other party must have been unaware. In addition, the petitioner must not have voluntarily lived with their spouse since making the discovery.

Fraud, Duress, or Force

A common reason for void marriages is that one party discovers that the other spouse is not who they claimed to be when the marriage began. Or, one party felt pressured or forced into marriage before they were ready.

A court can grant an annulment on the grounds of fraud, duress, or force, but the petitioner must have strong evidence to support their case. They must also show that they have not voluntarily lived with their spouse since being released from duress or learning of the fraud.

Discretionary Annulment

A Judge can grant an annulment without anyone filing a petition if one of the parties is underage. The Judge will consider the circumstances of the marriage and the welfare of both parties when making their decision.

Mental Incapacity

If one party was mentally incapacitated at the time of the marriage, then their guardian, parent, or ‘next friend’ can file a petition to annul the marriage.

The annulment will be granted if the petitioner can show that one party did not have the mental capacity to consent to the marriage and they have not voluntarily lived with their spouse when they had the mental capacity to recognize the marriage relationship.

The petitioner must have also been unaware of the mental disease or defect at the time of the marriage and has not voluntarily lived with the other party since they discovered the mental incapacity.

Under the Influence

If one party was under the influence of alcohol or drugs when they married, then the Judge can grant an annulment. The petitioner must prove that they did not have the capacity to consent to the marriage because they were under the influence and that they have not voluntarily lived with their spouse since they were sober.

Concealed Divorce

If one party violated the legal requirements for re-marriage after a divorce in Texas, then the Judge can grant an annulment. For example, in Texas, once someone has been granted a divorce, they must wait 30 days until they can remarry; if they remarry before, then their new marriage could be void.

For an annulment to be granted on the grounds of a canceled divorce, the other party must have been unaware of the marriage and, since making the discovery, should not have voluntarily lived with their spouse. There is also a time limit of one year to seek an annulment on these grounds.

Marriage Less Than 72 Hours After Issuance of License

In Texas, a marriage cannot take place until 72 hours have passed since the issuance of the marriage license. The waiting period is in place to prevent parties from being pressured into marriage.

If spouses do not wait the full amount of time, then the court could void the marriage. However, the marriage must be annulled within the first 30 days for these grounds to be valid.

Religious Annulments

A religious annulment is not granted by a Judge but rather by a church or religious tribunal. A religious annulment does not legally end a marriage, and securing a religious annulment does not guarantee that a Judge will also approve a civil annulment. Similarly, a church may decide not to recognize a civil annulment.

What is the Difference Between Annulment and Divorce?

A divorce is a legal dissolution of a marriage. Unlike an annulment, divorce does not mean that your marriage was invalid, only that it has now ended.

In addition, a no-fault divorce also requires a low burden of proof, whereas the grounds for annulment must have strong evidence. Texas is a no-fault state which means most divorces do not require proof of why the marriage has ended. In a no-fault divorce, spouses simply separate in terms of insupportability.

However, some people do choose to file for an at-fault divorce in Texas based on grounds such as abuse, adultery, and substance misuse. An at-fault divorce also needs to be supported with evidence.

However, the biggest consideration for most people is that divorce allows for property division and spousal support, whilst an annulment does not.

Property Division

If you get a divorce, then your marriage is recognized as legal, which means that a Judge will need to divide your marital assets. On the other hand, as an annulment does not recognize marriage as legal, there are no marital assets to divide. Even if you purchased property together, an annulment provides no legal avenue to divide it.

Texas is a community property state, which means that all assets and debts that either party acquired while they were married is subject to equitable decision.

It is difficult to secure an annulment if both parties do not agree to it. If one spouse has a lot of assets and the other does not, then they could push for a divorce in order to secure a proportion of their spouse’s property.

Spousal Support

An annulment invalidates the marriage, which means that neither spouse has a right to seek spousal support. Spousal support is awarded in divorces where one spouse would struggle to meet their basic needs without the support of their ex-spouse after marriage. If you believe that you have a right to spousal support, then divorce could be a better option for you.

Similarities Between Divorce and Annulment

Divorces and annulments both legally end the marriage, meaning you will be once again single and free to remarry.

The spouse seeking annulment must provide evidence to the Judge to support their claims, the burden of proof is similar to an at-fault divorce.

Is it Cheaper to Get an Annulment, Rather than a Divorce?

An annulment is usually cheaper than a divorce proceeding. However, this is not sufficient reason to push for an annulment. Annulments are difficult to secure, and if you try and push for one and then need to continue with a divorce, you could end up wasting a lot of time and money.

The best thing you can do is seek the help of a family law attorney who can advise you on whether you have valid grounds for an annulment.

Can Same-Sex Couples Get a Legal Annulment?

In 2015, the United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage throughout the country, known as the Obergefell decision. As a result, all states must grant both divorces and annulments to same-sex couples in the same way they would for opposite-sex couples.

Is it Difficult to Get an Annulment in Texas?

In Texas, it is difficult to secure an annulment. Texas views marriage as a fundamental constitutional right, and the courts uphold the sanctity of marriage. Therefore, declaring that a marriage is void is fundamentally wrong in the majority of cases.

If you lived with your spouse for a period of time or consummated the marriage, then it will be especially difficult to secure an annulment. If you held yourself publicly as being a married couple, then it usually equates to a legal marriage..

What is the Difference Between Annulment and Divorce?

Regardless of how you end your marriage, it is important that you have support and guidance from a family law attorney. They will ensure that you know your rights and that you can make decisions from a place of clarity.

At Skillern Firm, we are committed to helping people navigate family law matters in Texas. Whether your case involves complex assets, a lot of conflicts, or a complex custody battle, we can help.

We are committed to the best interests of our clients, which means understanding when to use mediation to help couples come to personalized agreements, saving time and money on drawn-out court proceedings, and when litigation is necessary. We are as skilled in the courtroom as we are around the litigation table and will tailor our approach to fit your needs.

Call us today to schedule a consultation with an experienced family law attorney at 936-213-8479.