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The Difference Between Annulment and Divorce in Connecticut

A question over at Avvo inspired us to take some time to focus on the difference between annulment and divorce in Connecticut.  People are understandably confused about the difference between annulment and divorce in Connecticut — especially given that there are two kinds of annulment, legal and religious, which adds an extra layer of complexity. Read on for a clear explanation of the differences.

Religious Annulment Versus Legal Annulment in Connecticut

There are two types of annulments in Connecticut — a legal (also called “civil”) annulment and religious annulment. In both instances — unlike with divorce — an annulment it is usually retroactive, meaning that an annulled marriage is considered to be invalid from the beginning almost as if it had never taken place.

The main difference between a religious annulment and a civil annulment — and it is a very important one — is that an annulment granted by a church or clergy member has no effect on your legal, marital status as far as the State of Connecticut is concerned. A couple who seeks a religious annulment must also seek either a legal annulment, a divorce, or a legal separation in order to end their marriage legally.

Legal Annulment Versus Divorce

Connecticut allows both annulment and divorce and divorce.  So, what are the key differences and similarities?

A civil annulment is based on the theory that a marriage was void when it took place, meaning that, in the eyes of the law, an annulled married never existed because the couple was never legally married in the first place. In other words, what everyone thought was a marriage was never actually a marriage at all. An annulment decree, in effect, declares that a marriage never existed.

By contrast, in Connecticut, a divorce ends an existing, valid marriage and is based on causes and problems that arise after the wedding ceremony.

In both cases, you are able to remarry.

Short Marriages and Annulment in Connecticut

Mostly thanks to pop culture, often people think they can ask for an annulment because they have been married for a very short time. But in Connecticut, an annulment is usually only possible when the marriage was not legal in the first place (for example, if one of the people was underage or already married).

Connecticut Eligibility for a Legal Annulment

Eligibility, or “grounds,” for annulment of a Connecticut marriage fall into two general categories: those specifically set forth by statute, and those recognized pursuant to common law. (“Common law” means the legal rules that have been made by judges as they issue rulings on cases, as opposed to rules and laws made by the legislature in statutes.) The law on all questions concerning divorce and related family issues such as annulment is complicated, so please contact us for advice specifically tailored to your goals and situation when considering annulment.

Here are some of the grounds for annulment in Connecticut:

  • The spouses are closely related (legally known as “consanguinity,” or a blood relationship, or “affinity,” meaning a close family relationship). In Connecticut, you cannot marry a parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, sibling, parent’s sibling, sibling’s child, stepparent, or stepchild.
  • One spouse is already legally married to someone else at the time of the second marriage (“bigamy”).
  • One spouse was mentally incompetent at the time of the marriage ceremony.  Connecticut statutes require that before a marriage license can be issued to anyone under the supervision and control of a conservator or guardian the written consent of that person must be obtained, so a marriage under those circumstances may be eligible for an annulment.
  • The marriage ceremony was performed by a person who was not legally authorized to perform a wedding.  (There are many exceptions and a lot more to say about this ground, so if you have questions please reach out to us.)
  • One or both spouses consented to the marriage only because of force, fraud, or duress (coercion) from another person.
  • One spouse hides from the other spouse a health problem or physical condition that has a direct impact on matters that go to the essence, or heart, of the marriage.

Legal Effect of an Annulment on Children

Connecticut law provides that the children of an annulled marriage are legitimate and must be legally treated as though they were the product of married or divorced parents.  Therefore, when the complaint for annulment is filed, the court will also make decisions about child support, parenting, custody, and visitation—just as it would in a divorce case.

Legal Effect of an Annulment on Alimony and Property Division

Above we talked about how an annulment, in effect, declares that a marriage never existed.  So it makes sense that some people are concerned that if they have their marriage annulled rather than divorce, the court won’t be able to award alimony or divide property or debts.

In some states, courts don’t have this authority, under the logic that there cannot be marital property if there wasn’t a valid marriage. But Connecticut is different.  Our laws specifically require the superior court to equitably (fairly) divide a couple’s property and debts when it grants an annulment, just as when it grants a divorce.

Next Steps

There are many reasons that annulments are rare these days and that divorce is so much more common.  For example, it’s complicated to prove that a marriage is null, void or voidable.  At Freed Marcroft, we can help you to understand the difference between annulment and divorce, and so that you will be set up to choose the process to end your marriage that is right for you.

Our first step, the Goals & Planning Conference is designed to get to the heart of your problem and unveil your true goals for your life. Once we discover your goals for your life at the Goals and Planning Conference, we are able to take our all of our collective experience with divorce, law, the available ways to divorce, strategy, courts, judges, and other lawyers, and build a divorce, separation, or annulment customized for you.

Schedule your Goals & Planning Conference today, or contact us either here or by phone at 860-560-8160.

Written by Meghan Freed