The key difference between an annulment and a divorce lies in the legal status of the marriage.
An annulment declares that the marriage was never valid to begin with, essentially erasing it as if it never happened.
A divorce, on the other hand, terminates a legally valid marriage, bringing it to an end but acknowledging that it did exist.
Now, let’s delve deeper into these two distinct legal procedures under Australian law.
What is a Divorce?
Divorce is the legal termination of a valid marriage. It’s the full stop at the end of a marital story, so to speak.
In Australia, divorce is governed by the Family Law Act, which essentially means that a once-valid marriage has ended.
The division of property, assets, and arrangements for children are separate matters that can be finalised either before or after the divorce is granted.
In Western Australia, a divorce order even has the power to invalidate a Will unless it specifically states otherwise.
Also read: How to Get a Divorce in Australia
What is an Annulment?
On the other hand, an annulment is like hitting the rewind button on a marriage—it treats the marriage as if it never happened.
A decree of nullity is granted by the Family Court, declaring that no legal marriage took place, even if a marriage ceremony was conducted.
Grounds for annulment include bigamy, lack of consent, fraud, coercion, or being lineal relatives.
How Much Time Do You Have to Get an Annulment?
Unlike divorce, where you need to prove at least 12 months of separation, there’s no set period for an annulment.
However, the grounds for annulment must be solid and provable. For example, an annulment could be granted if one party was already married at the time or if the marriage was not legally conducted.
Which Is Better: Annulment vs Divorce
The “better” option depends on your unique circumstances. An annulment is generally more complicated to obtain and requires proving specific grounds.
Divorce, however, is usually sought when there are irreconcilable differences and doesn’t require proving fault.
So, if you want to erase the marriage as if it never happened completely, an annulment might be the way to go.
But if you’re after a more straightforward process and the marriage is valid, divorce could be your best bet.
We Can Help You Make The Right Decision: Annulment vs Divorce
When John, a seasoned architect, consulted our law firm, the weight of his nearly 7-year marriage was evident.
Separated from his wife and grappling with the complexities of Australian family law, he was torn between seeking an annulment or a divorce.
This case study outlines how we, as his legal advisors, helped him navigate this emotional and legal labyrinth.
John scheduled an initial consultation with us to discuss his options.
We started by gathering essential information about his marriage, such as the duration, the reason for separation, and any children or assets involved.
This helped us understand the nuances of his case better.
We then educated John on the fundamental differences between an annulment and a divorce under Australian law.
We explained that an annulment would declare his marriage null and void, as if it never happened, while a divorce would simply terminate the marriage.
We also discussed the legal repercussions of each, including property division and child custody.
After understanding John’s situation, we assessed whether he was eligible for an annulment.
Given that he had been married for almost 7 years and had no grounds like bigamy or fraud, we advised that an annulment would not be granted.
John weighed the information and decided that divorce was the most practical route for him.
We supported his decision and immediately set the wheels in motion.
Filing for Divorce
Document Preparation: We started by preparing all the necessary legal documents, including the divorce application.
Financial Settlement: We initiated discussions about the division of assets and property. John was particularly concerned about his architectural firm, and we ensured it was adequately protected.
Child Custody: This step was not applicable since John and his wife had no children.
Submission: After double-checking all the documents, we submitted the divorce application to the Family Court of Australia.
Court Hearing: We represented John during the court hearing, ensuring all legal protocols were followed.
Finalisation: Once the court granted the divorce, we assisted John in tying up any loose ends, including finalising the financial settlement.
Always Consult A Legal Expert
Annulment vs divorce, whichever path you choose, it’s crucial to consult a legal expert to navigate the complexities of Australian family law.
After all, your decision will have long-lasting implications on your life.
Director of Melbourne Family Lawyers, Hayder manages the practice and oversees the running of all of the files in the practice. Hayder has an astute eye for case strategy and running particularly complex matters in the family law system.