Ending a marriage is rarely an easy decision. There are two ways to end a marriage in Georgia. You can petition the court for an annulment or a divorce.
Anyone who meets the residency requirements can petition the court for a divorce in Douglasville, GA. A spouse can seek a divorce on the no-fault grounds that the marriage is irretrievably broken. Georgia also has several fault grounds for divorce, including adultery, cruel treatment, desertion, and incurable mental illness.
However, the grounds for an annulment are different. Only a small number of marriages qualify for an annulment in Georgia.
How Is an Annulment Different From a Divorce in Georgia?
An annulment legally ends a marriage. However, unlike a divorce, an annulment voids the marriage. Therefore, when the court annuls a marriage, it is as if the marriage never occurred.
What Are the Grounds for an Annulment in Douglasville, GA?
There are several grounds for annulment in Georgia. Your marriage might qualify for an annulment if:
- At least one spouse did not have the mental ability to enter the marriage
- A spouse is legally married to another person
- The spouses are closely related by blood
- A spouse was coerced or forced to enter into the marriage
- A spouse was 16 years old or younger when the marriage took place
- A spouse fraudulently misleads the other spouse into marriage
Petitions for annulment must be filed with the Superior Court. Once the court enters an order of annulment, both parties can enter other marriages. They do not need to say they are divorced because an annulment voids the marriage.
Can You Get an Annulment if You Have Children?
Georgia does not permit couples to get an annulment if they have children or if a child is expected to be born of the marriage. Adopting a child is the same as giving birth to a child for annulment purposes. If you have children, you need to file a petition for divorce.
In a divorce action, child support is based on the Georgia child support guidelines. The guidelines create a presumptive amount for child support. However, judges can deviate from the presumptive amount for several reasons, including health insurance premiums and childcare expenses.
Child custody is based on what is in the child’s best interest. Parents are encouraged to develop a parenting plan and time-sharing schedule that works best for their family. However, the courts retain jurisdiction over the child custody to change plans if the judge believes the plan is not in the child’s best interest.
How Does the Court Handle Property Division and Alimony in an Annulment?
Because an annulment voids the marriage, there is no marital property to divide. Typically, the spouses retain the property they had before marriage or purchased during the marriage. However, some issues may arise when parties hold property jointly during the marriage.
Likewise, spousal support is not an issue in an annulment. Since an annulment treats the marriage as if it never occurred, there are no grounds to grant alimony in an annulment.
In a divorce, marital property is divided according to equitable distribution. It is important to understand that equitable distribution does not mean a 50-50 split. Instead, the court decides asset division based on what is fair based on the facts of the case.
Georgia decides alimony cases based on the facts of a case. The judge may consider all factors, including reasons for the breakup of the marriage. Alimony may be awarded as a lump sum, temporary alimony, periodic alimony, or permanent alimony payments.
Why Would Parties Seek an Annulment Instead of a Divorce?
A common reason for seeking an annulment instead of a divorce is on religious grounds. It is better to void the marriage instead of divorcing. However, because the grounds for annulment are very limited, a divorce is the only option for legally ending a marriage for many couples.
Annulments prevent parties from claiming an interest in the other party’s estate when they die. It also prevents parties from claiming spousal benefits for retirement or disability.
An annulment can be quicker than a divorce. If the other party does not contest the annulment, the judge could enter a default order any time after 30 days of service of the petition on the opposing party. In this case, an annulment could end the marriage very quickly with less cost.
The decision whether to petition for a divorce or annulment should be made after seeking advice from an experienced Douglasville divorce lawyer. While an annulment might be desirable for some reasons, a divorce might be a better option. An attorney can tell you if your marriage qualifies for an annulment and whether an annulment or a divorce is best given your circumstances.
Contact the Georgia Family Law Firm of Bardley McKnight Law for Help Today
We proudly serve Douglas County and its surrounding areas:
Law Firm of Bardley McKnight Law Offices
12461 Veterans Memorial Hwy, Suite 470
Douglasville, GA 30134