A divorce is a lawsuit to dissolve the marriage relationship. A divorce encompasses many different issues including the division of property and debts, and what rights each parent will have to the children.
An annulment is a proceeding to declare that a marriage never legally existed. For adults, an annulment may be granted on any of several grounds:
First, if at the time of the marriage at least one spouse was under the influence of drugs or alcohol and did not have the capacity to consent to the marriage, and the spouses have not voluntarily cohabited after the effects of the alcohol or drugs ended, an annulment may be granted.
The second ground for an annulment applies where either party, for physical or mental reasons, was permanently impotent at the time of the marriage. This is assuming the impotency was not known at the time of the marriage and there has been no voluntary cohabitation since learning of the impotency.
Third, a court may grant an annulment if one spouse did not have the mental capacity to consent to or to understand the marriage ceremony, the other spouse did not know or should not have known about the mental disease or defect, and no voluntary cohabitation has occurred after the mental disease or defect was discovered.
Fourth, where the marriage occurs within 30 days of the dissolution of a previous marriage, the spouse did not know about the other's divorce, and no voluntary cohabitation occurred after learning of the concealed divorce, an annulment may be granted.
Finally, a court may grant an annulment if the marriage took place during the mandated 72-hour waiting period after the issuance of the marriage license.
Mike McCurley is a name partner in the Dallas family-law firm McCurley, Orsinger, McCurley, Nelson & Downing. He has been a divorce lawyer for more than 25 years and is a past-president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.