There seems to be a lot of confusion regarding the difference between an annulment and a divorce in Alberta but the distinction is not as puzzling as it seems. If you find your marriage is over and you are looking at your options for legally ending it, depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible to annul the marriage immediately. In this article, we explore the differences between marriage annulment and divorce, along with reasons for them. As always, we do suggest hiring a family/divorce lawyer to help you navigate all of the formalities of the legal system and explore the best options for you and your family.
What is a marriage annulment?
An annulment is essentially a court order which states that your marriage either did not exist or was not valid. In an annulment, the marriage ends immediately once the court order has been issued. Consulting with an experienced family lawyer who has practiced in Alberta and is well-versed in the system here is your best option for discussing the possibility of an annulment versus a divorce. While an annulment may not always be granted, below are some of the circumstances that may qualify:
- Second marriages: If your spouse was already married to another person when they entered into marriage with you, your marriage is not considered valid.
- Duress: If you were forced to marry your spouse under threat of physical violence or under duress, you may qualify for an annulment as marriage must be entered into by consenting individuals.
- Intoxication: If you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of your marriage ceremony, you may qualify for an annulment.
- False Identity: If you thought you were marrying someone and they turned out to be a different person, the legal contract of marriage in which you entered with them is considered voidable.
- Consummation: If your spouse is unable to consummate the marriage and you were unaware of this prior to the ceremony, you may qualify for an annulment.
- Parental consent: If you were under the legal age of 18 when you got married and you did so without parental consent, an annulment order could be possible to obtain.
- Kinship: If you and your spouse are too closely related, you may qualify for an annulment to void the marriage immediately.
- Prerequisites: If your marriage ceremony did not include the essential requirements for Alberta, by law, such as having two witnesses, it is possible you could qualify for an annulment.
What is a religious annulment?
It is important to note that annulments granted by a religious institution are not the same as legal annulments. Religious annulments are only valid within the religion itself – a legal marriage is otherwise considered to remain intact unless you access the appropriate legal channels to obtain a legal annulment from a judge or you get divorced. This is important, as well, in the case of spouses who religiously annul and then wish to remarry other people. Without a legal annulment or divorce of the first marriage, the second legal marriage will not be considered valid and is voidable.
What are my responsibilities after an annulment?
An annulment does not mean that spouses are absolved of either their status as parents or that they cannot bring forth claims against one another as it pertains to property and support. Such claims can be brought forward about the following:
- The division of property and assets
- Spousal support
- Child support or custody
It is also possible that, at the time of annulment, the court can issue orders pertaining to finances, property distribution and/or custody. Your best option, as mentioned above, is to enlist the services of a quality family lawyer to help make decisions about how to best end your marriage and assist you throughout that process.
Getting a lawyer for your family law needs
If you still don’t know whether pursuing a divorce or a marriage annulment is best for you, a family lawyer from Kolinsky Law can help you determine the best option for your circumstances. They will help you weigh the pros and cons of each option, always directing you to the very best choice for your particular circumstances. The family lawyers at Kolinsky Law know the Alberta system well and have years of experience in serving Albertan families. Call today to set up a consultation.