Difference Between an Annulment and a Divorce in Ohio

A divorce is a court agreement that a marriage is legally over. The court will only enter a judgment of divorce if it finds that certain grounds for divorce exist. “No-fault” grounds for divorce include incompatibility or living separate and apart for a year. “Fault” grounds for divorce include bigamy, adultery, willful absence for one year, gross neglect of duty, etc. Divorce is not the only way to end a marriage in Ohio, however. You can also terminate a marriage through annulment.

Annulment is a court decree that a marriage is legally invalid because of a defect that existed at the time the marriage was entered into. An annulment decree essentially declares that the marital status never existed in the first place. A court can grant a marriage annulment only when certain circumstances exist. The following are the six grounds for annulment in Ohio:

  1. Either you or your spouse were under the age required for marriage at the time that you got married (18 years of age for males and 16 years of age for females).
  2. Either you or your spouse were already legally married and the other spouse is still alive.
  3. The marriage consent of either you or your spouse was obtained by fraud, unless you continued to live with your spouse after learning all the facts. An annulment based on fraud must be filed within two years after discovery of the fraud. For example, consent could be obtained by fraud if a spouse misrepresents his or her gender or identity.
  4. Either you or your spouse had been declared mentally incompetent, unless competency was restored later and you subsequently lived together as husband and wife.
  5. The marriage consent of either you or your spouse was obtained by force, unless you lived together as husband and wife afterward. This type of annulment must be filed within two years of the marriage date.
  6. The marriage was never consummated, or in other words, you and your spouse didn’t have physical relations following the ceremony. This type of annulment must be filed within two years of the date of the marriage.

In order to have a marriage annulled in Ohio, you must prove one of the six grounds of annulment listed above. Most annulments are filed early in a marriage because in many situations, you must bring a request for annulment within two years of the marriage date or within two years of discovering the facts.

You can file a petition for annulment with the court, addressing the grounds for the annulment. The petition must be served on the defendant spouse. Keep in mind that if you file an annulment, spousal support cannot be awarded. The Ohio statute that allows a party to recover attorney fees doesn’t apply to annulments, either. However, in civil annulment cases that involve fraud, the court may award attorney fees.

Hire a Columbus Divorce Lawyer to File a Petition for Annulment in Ohio

Because the grounds for annulment are complicated and the actions that the court must take are not always clear, it is a good idea to hire a Columbus divorce lawyer to represent you. An attorney can help you determine whether you should file for a divorce or an annulment. If there are grounds for both divorce and annulment, consider the amount of property you have and the financial compensation you need. If after assessing the facts of your case, it looks like you are likely to be awarded spousal support or attorney fees, keep in mind that a divorce would give you access to these remedies but an annulment most likely would not. Divorce may also be a better option if you accumulated a significant amount of marital property during your marriage.

If you or a loved one is contemplating a divorce or annulment, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Columbus divorce lawyers. We have over 30 years of experience providing sound and thoughtful counsel in divorce cases. We also have a strong track record of obtaining much-needed financial support and other favorable outcomes for our clients.