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What Is Annulment and How Is It Different From Divorce?

What Is Annulment and How Is It Different From Divorce?

What Is Annulment and How Is It Different From Divorce?

You’ve been married for a few months, but something feels off. Maybe you discover your spouse concealed significant debt or lied about wanting children. These aren’t just minor hiccups; they’re deal-breakers that make you question the validity of your marriage. That’s when the concept of annulment might cross your mind as a possible exit strategy. You have to meet certain conditions for the Ontario court to accept your annulment, otherwise you might have to file for a divorce. Before deciding, read through our guide for a clearer understanding of the topic.

What is annulment?

An annulment erases your marriage, treating it as if it never happened. According to Ontario law, specific grounds must be met for an annulment to be granted. These can include fraudulent behavior, impotency, or lack of informed consent. Unlike divorce, which has its roots in the termination of a legally recognized union, annulment nullifies the marriage altogether. Data shows that the majority of annulments occur for religious reasons, emphasizing the societal and emotional factors that frequently accompany annulments. 

What is divorce? 

A divorce ends a legally recognized marriage. While annulment erases the marriage, divorce acknowledges it as a former reality. In Ontario, the grounds for filing for divorce are adultery, physical or mental cruelty, or living apart for at least one year. Close to 40% of Canadian marriages are projected to end in divorce before hitting the 30-year mark, reflecting the frequency with which divorce occurs. 

What are the main differences between annulment and divorce? 

1. Legal Recognition

Divorce signifies the end of a marriage that was once valid. Annulment, however, operates on the principle that the marriage was never legitimate from the start. This can be due to fraud, a lack of consent, or other legal issues that would render the marriage invalid.

2. Property Division

In divorce proceedings, assets are often divided based on an equitable distribution model. However, annulment usually aims to return each party to their financial state before the marriage. This could mean that property acquired during the “marriage” may not be divided in the same way it would in a divorce. With years of experience in Ontario family law under our belts, we’ve found that divorce cases involving property division often take longer to settle. Choose your path wisely, keeping in mind the time commitment you’re willing to make.

3. Time Frame

When it comes to the time frame, annulment generally offers a swift resolution because you only need to prove specific legal grounds to invalidate the marriage. On the other hand, divorce proceedings in Ontario can extend over a considerable period, especially when complications like asset division and child custody arise.

A child holding a paper cutout of her family

4. Child Custody and Support

Issues of child custody and support usually come to the forefront during divorce, with the family court often stepping in to make determinations. In contrast, annulment proceedings generally sidestep these concerns, as the legal standpoint is that the marriage was never valid. Yet, under certain circumstances, arrangements for children may still be made.

5. Alimony

Divorce often involves alimony, where one spouse may have to financially support the other post-divorce. In annulment cases, alimony is generally not awarded because the marriage is considered to have never existed.

6. Social and Religious Aspects

If your faith frowns upon divorce, annulment can be a more comfortable choice. It lets you end things without running afoul of religious rules or facing spiritual consequences that divorce might bring.

7. Financial Cost

Divorce can be financially draining due to the complexities involved, such as hiring attorneys and going through extended court proceedings. Annulments, while also potentially costly, often incur fewer expenses since they can be resolved more quickly.

Unsure about your marriage? Noori Law specializes in family law and can offer you confidential, expert advice. Book your consultation now to start your journey toward a new life chapter.