There are two ways for couples to part ways under Tennessee law: annulment and divorce. These two are very different, even though they might look similar. While most couples think that getting an annulment is an “easier” way to end a marriage, the truth is it’s more complicated than that.

How does annulment differ from a divorce?

When a couple applies for annulment, they are essentially asking the court to declare their union invalid from the start. An annulment means everything that happened during the period a couple considered themselves married is null and void. For example, they won’t have “conjugal property,” because the basis for their marriage was void ab initio. Therefore, the aggrieved party will keep all or most of the property that would otherwise have been deemed conjugal.

Meanwhile, a divorce is a process through which a court dissolves a valid marriage. Because the marriage was valid, any property that a couple acquired while they were married will have to be divided evenly between them, unless otherwise specified by the court.

What are the grounds for annulment compared to divorce?

Under Tennessee law, a marriage can be declared invalid from the start under any of the following circumstances:

  • Bigamy (both or either one of the parties was still married to other people)
  • Both or either one of the parties was tricked or forced to marry each other
  • Evasion of immigration rules and other “limited purposes”
  • Incest
  • Incurable sexual impotence
  • Mental incapacity or insanity on the part of one or both parties
  • One or both parties were below 18 and didn’t have their parents’ consent
  • Sexless marriage
  • The husband didn’t know that the wife was pregnant with someone else’s child

If you believe that any of the above reasons apply to your marriage, you need to gather evidence that will stand up to the court’s scrutiny. In some cases, the government itself may move to annul your marriage if it can prove that your union was solemnized to help you get around immigration rules.

Note that “irreconcilable differences” and domestic violence aren’t grounds for annulment. If a married couple seeks to dissolve their marriage because of irreconcilable differences, they will have to prove those differences in court and undergo divorce proceedings. The same applies to victims of domestic violence. They will have to prove their partner is really violent before they can get a divorce. If a couple decides to separate for reasons other than the ones listed above, they will have to file for a divorce instead.

Is religious annulment legal?

Couples belonging to certain religions, like Catholicism, may decide to annul their marriage with their local church. However, as far as Tennessee law is concerned, the civil aspects of that marriage still hold. That means both parties can’t legally remarry even after they’ve annulled their marriage with their local church. This is because the US Constitution recognizes the separation of church and state. They will have to apply for legal annulment in Tennessee’s courts to be declared single again.

How is divorce similar to an annulment?

Divorce and annulment are similar in that both processes allow couples to separate and become single again. This means both parties can remarry after undergoing either process. However, the problem with an annulment is that the basis for the voiding of a previous marriage shouldn’t come up again in a new marriage contract. Mental incapacity or insanity, for example, may prevent a person from remarrying. Some grounds for annulment, such as adultery, impotence, and undisclosed pregnancies, are also considered grounds for divorce under Tennessee law. They can prompt a court to issue an annulment or divorce order. Shepherd and Associates can be of assistance in divorce, mediation and child support negotiations – get in touch today to see how we can help.




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