Annulment vs. Divorce: Understanding the Differences

People often think the terms “annulment” and “divorce” mean the same thing since both mean separating from a spouse. However, the legal and personal implications of each are distinctly different. Understand the difference between an annulment and divorce with this article.

What Is an Annulment?

Annulment refers to the legal process of declaring a marriage canceled. This cancelation means the Court deemed the marriage invalid from the beginning as if it never existed.

Reasons for an Annulment

Traditionally, a couple or one of the individuals in the relationship seeks nullification if they don’t consummate the marriage. In the modern age, lack of consummation isn’t the only grounds to seek annulment. We explain the other, more current reasons in the sections below.

One or both parties were not legally able to enter the marriage contract at the time of the wedding. This illegal entry could be due to mental incapacity or being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Feeling forced into a marriage, also known as duress, would fall into this category.


One party deceived the other to get them to agree to the marriage. For example, one person lying about their financial status or hiding information affects the other’s decision to marry. In this instance, the deceived individual could file for annulment.


The subsequent marriage is invalid if one spouse is already legally married to another person at the time of the wedding. In Colorado, you can only have one legal spouse, and willingly breaking the law may mean fines or jail time for the offender.

How To File for Annulment  

The process for filing an annulment varies depending on the jurisdiction. Usually, the process requires submitting a petition to the court and evidence to support the grounds for annulment. 

Filing an annulment comes with strict time limits, so it is best to seek legal advice as soon as possible.

Contact Jones Law Firm, PC

At Jones Law Firm, PC, we understand the complexities of family law in Denver, including annulment. We can provide you with the guidance and support you need during this difficult time.

What Is Divorce?

Divorce terminates a valid marriage. It is the legal process of ending a marriage before its natural end, thereby dissolving the bonds of matrimony between two individuals. It acknowledges that a valid marriage once existed but is no longer sustainable or reconcilable.

Reasons for Divorce

Similar to annulment, a couple may seek divorce for various reasons. Some common causes of divorce include:

  • Irreconcilable differences
  • Domestic violence or abuse
  • Separation

Sometimes, people move in separate directions, and seeking a divorce may be the best option. Likewise, relationships can become toxic, and it may be best for one or both parties to end the marriage.

Irreconcilable Differences

Courts often cite irreconcilable differences as a general reason for divorce and refer to issues that the spouses cannot resolve or reconcile among themselves. Couples may have disagreements due to differences in personal beliefs, parenting, or finances.

Domestic Violence or Abuse

One spouse being physically, emotionally, or mentally abusive towards the other is also grounds for divorce. Examples can include divorcing a narcissist to protect your family.

Since Colorado is a no-fault divorce state, you need evidence to prove your case in these situations. Abuse is serious, so it’s best to seek legal help as soon as possible.


One may seek a divorce on the grounds of separation if the spouses have been living apart for a certain period—which varies by jurisdiction.

How To File for Divorce

The process for filing for divorce also varies depending on the jurisdiction, but it usually involves filing a petition with the Court and serving the other spouse with legal documents. 

Since divorce laws can be complex, hiring an attorney is best to help you complete and file the paperwork. An attorney can also advocate for you in Court and help protect your rights to property, alimony, and child custody. 

Understanding the Key Differences

An annulment or a divorce may result in the end of a marriage. We go into further detail below to help you better understand the difference between an annulment and a divorce.

As mentioned earlier, the Court deems a marriage annulled if it finds the marriage to be legally invalid from the beginning, whereas a divorce is the result of the termination of a marriage the Court once regarded as valid. Therefore, divorced individuals were once legally married while the parties were legally never married after the Court deemed their marriage annulled.

Time Limit

Unlike divorce, an annulment must occur within a set time frame—which differs from state to state. In Colorado, deadlines for dissolution depend on the reason. You’ll have six months to annul a marriage that occurred under duress. 

Financial Implication

An annulment generally does not involve dividing assets and debts between the parties since the marriage was ruled void. On the other hand, the divorced parties must divide their marital property between themselves according to their state or country’s laws.

Child Custody

Generally, an annulment occurs before the couple bears any children to consider a case for child custody. However, Colorado Courts consider children legitimate if the couple has them during the marriage.

It’s more common for the couple to have children in a divorce case, so they must establish a custody agreement. The judge will decide based on the child’s best interest when couples cannot agree.

When To Hire a Lawyer 

Annulment and divorce cases can be complex legal processes, so it is best to seek the assistance of a family law attorney who can guide you through the process and help protect your rights. 

Tips for Finding a Quality Attorney 

Finding someone experienced and knowledgeable in annulment and divorce cases is essential when searching for a family law attorney. It would help if you also looked for an attorney with a good reputation within the legal community and a track record of successful annulment or divorce cases, depending on your needs.

Most importantly, you should find an attorney you trust to handle your case with care and sensitivity and make you feel comfortable. Jones Law Firm, PC, has a team of experienced family law attorneys who can provide you with the legal support and guidance you need during this difficult time. Going through an annulment or divorce can be emotionally taxing, so having a supportive and understanding attorney on your side can make all the difference.

Annulment vs. Divorce: Understanding the Differences

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

Our team includes attorneys licensed to practice in multiple states including April D. Jones in California, Patrick G. Barkman in Texas, the Cherokee Nation, the Northern District of Texas, and the District of Colorado (United States Court of Appeals 10th and 5th Circuit).