The two ways to end a marriage, voluntarily, are annulment and divorce. An annulment is the legal procedure that treats a marriage as if it never existed. It is legally erased. A divorce, however, is the legal dissolution of the marriage. Both parties are returned to single status.
The avenue a couple can pursue depends on the circumstances surrounding the marriage. For instance, annulments are typically granted because the marriage was never valid in the first place. In Minnesota, litigants may seek an annulment if any of the following exist:
- Coercion – This is also known as “forced consent” and it occurs when one spouse was forced into the marriage under duress;
- Bigamy – One party may have already been married to someone else;
- Mental incapacity – One spouse was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the nuptials and was not able to provide informed consent;
- Mental illness – One spouse was emotionally or mentally ill at the time of the marriage;
- Familial relationship – If the couple was related, then the marriage is prohibited by law;
- Fraud – One spouse aggress to the marriage based on misrepresentations made by the other;
- Inability to consummate – Either spouse was not physically able to have sexual relations to consummate the marriage; or
- Underage spouse – One spouse may have been too young to legally enter into the marriage without the consent of the court, or a parent.
Annulments typically conclude soon after marriage occurs, so there are typically no spousal maintenance or child custody issues involved – as in many divorce cases. Divorce can also involve the division of marital assets and debts, which makes the case more complicated, and longer to resolve.