It's understandable to think of divorce and annulment as the same thing. After all, they both lead to the conclusion of a marriage. While this is technically true, an annulment is the voiding of a marriage whereas divorce is the legal dissolution of a marriage.
While Pennsylvania recognizes many grounds for divorce, a court may grant an annulment if one of the following is true:
- One spouse is underage. A court can grant an annulment for a minor if the court or a parental guardian does not authorize their marriage. The minor must not have accepted the marriage after turning 18 years old and must file an annulment within 60 days of the marriage ceremony.
- A spouse was unable to consent to the marriage. Instances of coercion, fraud or other means for forcing a spouse into a marriage are grounds for annulment if the spouse doesn't voluntarily live with their partner. Being under the influence of drugs and alcohol at the time of consent can cause a court to grant an annulment if filed within 60 days of the marriage ceremony.
- The couple cannot reproduce. If one spouse is naturally and incurably impotent unbeknownst to the other spouse at the time of marriage, a court can grant an annulment.
Annulments serve a different purpose than divorce
Unlike divorce, there is rarely alimony in an annulment as the marriage is illegitimate in the eyes of the law. The aftermath of an annulment, legally, is if the marriage never happened.
Annulments exist to protect vulnerable people from potential harmful situations such as coercion or a minor marrying an adult. They're also there to keep people from remaining in marriages that they were unable to legally consent to.