Divorce vs. Annulment: What Are the Differences?

divorce vs. annulment

Divorce is everywhere you look. For every 1,000 Georgia residents, there are 1.9 divorces. Though Georgia has one of the lowest divorce rates in the country, the large population means that thousands of couples separate every year.

The statistics only account for a fraction of Georgia’s marital separations. Hundreds of couples apply for annulments every year. Yet many people don’t know what an annulment is.

What is divorce vs. annulment? When can you get an annulment? What is the annulment process like, and can you apply for spousal or child support afterward?

Answer these questions and you can find the right path to separate from your spouse. Here is your quick annulment guide.

The Essentials of Annulment

Section 19-4 of the Georgia Code provides the laws on annulment in Georgia. Section 19-4-5 states that annulment has the effect of total divorce. It returns the parties to the status they were before the marriage, rendering their marriage null and void.

A divorce also dissolves a couple’s marriage and returns them to their previous status. However, their marriage is considered to have legal weight. One spouse can apply for spousal benefits and support.

After an annulment, a spouse cannot apply for benefits of any kind. They must find a job if they were dependent on their spouse for their income.

An annulment does not require physical or legal separation between the two spouses. You or your spouse must be a Georgia resident for at least six months before you apply.

The annulment takes immediate effect once it is granted. You can marry someone else as soon as you receive a notification.

Some religious traditions have religious annulments. The Catholic Church allows Catholics to apply for annulments through diocesan tribunals. These annulments relate to religious law and customs, so you need to apply for a legal annulment to be separated under the eyes of the law.

Grounds for Annulment

In order to receive a divorce, you must have grounds for the separation. However, the grounds are open-ended. You can say that the marriage is irretrievably broken without specifying.

In order to get an annulment, you must provide a clear and legal reason why your marriage is prohibited or invalid under the law. You or your spouse may have been underage when the marriage occurred. You may have consented to the marriage due to coercion or fraud.

Bigamy and incest in Georgia are illegal. If you married someone who was married to someone else or if you married a close relative, you can apply for an annulment. You can also apply if you or your spouse was mentally incompetent when the marriage occurred.

You will need proof of your grounds. To show you were underage, you can supply your birth and marriage certificates.

To prove coercion, you can file a statement describing your experiences with your spouse. You can corroborate your statement with character witnesses.


There are two procedures you can take to pursue an annulment. Before you start the process, you should talk to a divorce lawyer who is familiar with annulments.

Petition by Spouse

The most common way an annulment occurs is when one spouse files for annulment. You should go to your local court and receive a petition for annulment.

You do not have to tell your spouse you are doing this. If you’re worried about your physical safety, you can go with someone else, including a lawyer. You can get help with filling out the petition and other documents from court officials and legal representatives.

Once you file your petition, your spouse will receive it. If they accept the petition, a judge can grant you an annulment within a few weeks. If they reject it, you may need to go to court to assert your case.

Property division can take place after an annulment. A judge will make sure each spouse has the same financial position they had before their wedding. One spouse may need to pay the other some money in order to do this.

Many judges will decline annulments if the couple has children. If a judge or jury declines your petition for annulment, you can then apply for a divorce.

If your marriage is annulled while you have children, Georgia law will regard your children as legitimate. However, you cannot apply for child support. You will need to get a divorce if you need money from your spouse to cover your children’s expenses.

Petition by Next Friend

The parent or guardian of a spouse who is a minor or has an unsound mind can apply for an annulment on the spouse’s behalf. The parent should sign the same petition as a spouse would sign. They may need to provide evidence showing they are the guardian of the spouse.

A judge may ask to speak to the spouse and make sure they desire an annulment. If the spouse refuses to separate, the judge may decline the annulment.

Divorce vs. Annulment

Divorce vs. annulment can be tricky to figure out. Both dissolve a person’s marriage. However, annulment renders a marriage null and void from the outset.

A couple whose marriage violates the law in some way can apply for an annulment. A spouse will need proof of how their marriage is illegal, but they can file a petition and receive an annulment quickly. Be ready to take your case to court, as your spouse can challenge you.

Talk to a lawyer before you make your first move. Blake and Detchemendy Law Firm serves the Augusta area. Contact us today.