There are several ways to end your marriage beyond a simple divorce. Many states allow couples to legally separate. When you are separated, you stay legally married so you can maintain the benefits of that marriage. For instance, separation allows you to stay on your spouse’s insurance plan. Separation also implies, however, that the relationship is over or at least currently “paused.”
To end the marriage completely, you must either get a divorce or have the marriage annulled. If you are new to family law, it may be difficult to understand the difference between these two options.
In this article, we will broadly compare annulment and divorce, helping you understand which may be appropriate for you.
A divorce, quite simply, ends a marriage. The law acknowledges that the marriage happened, lasted for a certain time, and then dissolved. The marriage remains a part of your legal record, and it can be tracked or referenced by authorities and other parties.
You can get divorced for any reason. The couple can simply cite “irreconcilable differences,” and move forward. Sometimes, a spouse can contest the divorce, taking the matter to court. Even in those situations, it’s unlikely that the other must “prove” their case for a divorce. Instead, the court will simply hear out both sides and make its judgements on spousal support, child custody, and the like.
Legally, an annulment disqualifies a marriage. Essentially, annulment acknowledges that the marriage shouldn’t have taken place at all. At its foundation, the marriage is illegal; one party was forced into it; or it happened under false pretenses.
Annulment invalidates your marriage, removing it from your record. It never should have happened, so it is no longer acknowledged.
Annulment also lacks many of the protections built into a divorce. It is highly unlikely that an annulment will lead to spousal support, for instance. Property division will essentially amount to giving everyone their property back with little room for debate. Child custody and support are treated as if the parents were never married in the first place.
Requirements for Annulment in South Carolina
Since an annulment erases the marriage from your record, it requires a much higher standard than a divorce. You cannot simply choose an annulment.
To get an annulment in South Carolina, one or more of the following must be true:
- The spouses are closely related.
This includes parents, siblings, grandparents, and aunts and uncles.
- The marriage was based on fraud.
Examples include a marriage under a false identity, one spouse lying about their finances, etc.
- The spouses never lived together after the marriage.
This standard can get quite granular in court. If the couple spent even one night sleeping in the same place, their marriage may not qualify for annulment.
- At least one spouse entered the marriage under duress.
This could apply to threats of death or physical violence. It may also apply to those who were culturally or religiously forced into a marriage.
- At the time of the marriage, at least one spouse was underage.
- At the time of the marriage, at least one spouse was already legally married.
- At the time of the marriage, at least one spouse could not consent to the marriage.
Generally, this standard applies to mental incapacitation. If one spouse was experiencing a mental health crisis, or if they were mentally unfit to consent to a marriage, then the marriage can be annulled.
Our firm can help with divorces or annulments, depend on your needs. For a free consultation, contact us online or call us at (803) 938-4952.