Legal Blog

What is the Difference between a Divorce and an Annulment?

Close up young woman taking off wedding ringThe most important distinction between divorce and annulment is that a divorce is based on there being a valid marriage whereas annulment is based on the marriage being invalid- in other words, void or voidable.

A divorce is the “termination” of a marriage, which recognizes that there was a legal marriage that existed and now is dissolved by the court.  The fact that you were once married does not change, just your legal relationship to your spouse changes.

If you are married and have continuously separate and apart from your spouse for at least 366 days, then you can file for a divorce.  It takes about 45 days from the date of filing of the divorce complaint until the entry of the judgment of absolute divorce. There is another ground for divorce which rarely, if ever, used, based on the spouses having lived separate and apart from each other for no less than three (3) years by reason of the incurable insanity of one of the spouses.

The most important fact about a divorce is that it based on there being a valid marriage.

In contrast, an annulment is a proceeding which declares the marriage void ab initio. It places the parties in the same legal positions they held prior to the marriage. It’s as if there had been no marriage at all.  The grounds for annulment are set out in the statute, N.C.Gen. Stat. 51-3, and include marriages involving underage (below 16 years old) parties, bigamous marriages, and other grounds.

Whether a marriage is brought to an end by divorce or is deemed void ab initio is significant.   The right to seek post-separation support, alimony and equitable distribution is based on the existence of a valid marriage.  There is no valid marriage if an annulment is granted.


Offit  Kurman’s family law attorneys have the legal proficiency, capability and resources to meet your family law needs.  If you have any questions about what our firm can do for you, please call Offit Kurman to set up a consultation with one of our family law attorneys.


Beth Hodges’ practice is devoted exclusively to family law.  Ms. Hodges’ cases involve the litigation, negotiation, and settlement of simple as well as complex financial and non-financial issues and disputes.








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