Annulments 101 in Colorado

July 28, 2021

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the marriage rate in 2019 was 6.1 per 1,000 people and the divorce rate was 2.7 per 1,000 people. The ratio between marriage and divorce rates is fairly high and the fact of the matter is that many Americans, at some point in their life, may end up seeking a legal way to end their marriage. In the United States, there are typically two ways to legally cut ties with your spouse: annulment or divorce. When it comes to annulment vs divorce, it can be confusing to understand the differences and recognize which is appropriate to your situation. The experienced family law attorneys at Johnson Law Group are dedicated to what matters most for Colorado families and may be able to help you. Consider reaching out to them at (720) 463-4333.

The Difference Between Annulment and Divorce

The first question individuals seeking to legally end their marriage may have about annulment vs divorce is: what is the difference? Simply put, divorce acknowledges that the couple was previously married. An annulment treats the marriage as though it never legally existed. In other words, with an annulment, that marriage is considered as never having been valid. Both divorces and annulments dissolve marriages. However, the impact of an annulment vs divorce can differ with regards to property division.

Legal Justifications for an Annulment

With regards to annulment vs divorce, the Legal Information Institute explains that an annulment, unlike a divorce, retroactively declares a marriage as void. In other words, “the marriage was void at the time it was entered into.” It is only granted under specific circumstances. This means that annulment is often a complicated process, and for most couples, is not a legally viable option. Some of the legal justifications or an annulment include:

  • One of the spouses was under the legal age of consent, usually defined as eighteen, at the time of the marriage.
  • One of the spouses was already married to someone else at the time of the marriage.
  • One of the spouses was unable to provide consent because they were impaired by drugs or alcohol at the time of the marriage or lacked the mental capacity to consent.
  • The marriage was not consummated because one of the spouses was physically unable and did not tell the other spouse.
  • A spouse concealed an important fact, such as a prior felony or drug abuse.
  • The marriage was incestuous - that is to say, the spouses were too closely related to marry.
  • One of the spouses was forced into the marriage.

If you think you may have legal justification for an annulment, it may be helpful to speak to the family law attorneys at Johnson Law Group for guidance to learn more about your legal rights.

The Different Types of Annulments

There are two different types of annulments, a civil or legal annulment and a religious annulment. While both acknowledge the marriage as void, it is important to understand the difference because a religious annulment has no legal bearing. An example of a religious annulment would be one that the Catholic church grants, which would then allow the spouses to marry someone else. Without a religious annulment, they may be banned within their religion from doing so.

A civil or legal annulment is an annulment obtained through the legal process, which is done by filing documents in court. Obtaining a religious annulment is a separate process from the legal process to obtain a civil annulment.

The Impacts of Annulment vs Divorce

Many individuals exploring the option of annulment may have questions about the impact of an annulment vs divorce. The procedure for obtaining an annulment is similar to that of obtaining a divorce. One of the spouses files a petition in court, a hearing is held, and the judge issues a decision. However, beyond the procedure, the impact of and requirements for obtaining an annulment can be different from a divorce. Here are some key differences:

  • In an annulment, neither spouse can claim spousal support.
  • There is typically no property division in an annulment. Instead, each spouse is expected to return to the position they were in prior to the wedding.
  • An annulment is allowed immediately after marriage. In the case of divorce, there is typically a waiting period, which can vary up to 1-2 years, depending on the state.
  • An annulment requires a witness and proof, whereas no-fault divorces do not.
  • After an annulment, the spouse is considered single or unmarried. After a divorce, the spouse is considered divorced.

Although there are important differences between annulment vs divorce there are also key similarities. These include:

  • Child custody and child support must still be resolved in the same manner as they would be in a divorce.
  • Neither an annulment nor a divorce impact the legitimacy of a child born during the marriage nor affect their paternity.

Although not always the case, many annulments take place shortly after the marriage because many of the justifications for an annulment became apparent quickly. However, an annulment may still be a viable legal option for older marriages, as well.

The Advantages of Annulment

There are certain advantages to annulment vs divorce for couples, such as:

  • An annulment can protect a person’s property because property is typically not divided.
  • An annulment can help a spouse receive benefits that they were previously eligible for, such as spousal support from a prior marriage.

Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney Today

If you think your marriage may be eligible for annulment and have questions about annulment vs divorce,  it is a good idea to consult an attorney for advice. The process for proving grounds for annulment can also be arduous, which is why it is important to seek legal support. The family lawyers at Johnson Law Group may be able to provide you with the support you need. Reach out to our compassionate and experienced attorneys for a consultation today at (720) 463-4333.


Written by Family Law Attorney Myles S. Johnson
Divorce doesn’t have to be dramatic. For the litigants, losing your spouse is significant enough. But you can choose the way it affects your daily life. The only guarantee I can give is that the feeling that you have right now will not be the feeling you end with. This is a season in your life, and it must be approached that way.
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