By Jedidiah McKeehan

You may have heard of the legal term, annulment, as a way to end a marriage, but what does the term actually mean.

An annulment differs from a divorce, in that a divorce is a proceeding to terminate a marriage, while an annulment is a proceeding to end a marriage because the marriage was invalid from its beginning.

It is rare that people have the grounds available to them to have a marriage annulled. The grounds that would allow someone to request an annulment of a marriage are:

Insanity – a spouse was insane or unable to understand the nature of marriage when the spouses married

Underage – one or both spouses was too young to be married

Incest – the spouses are related, closer than first cousin

Bigamy – a spouse has a living husband or wife at the time of marriage

Duress – a spouse only married because they were coerced

Fraud – one spouse defrauded the other into getting married

Impotence – one spouse physically cannot have sexual intercourse, and

Denial of marital rights – one spouse refuses to live with the other or have sexual relations during the marriage

Of those grounds, I want to touch on the fraud ground. It is not enough for you to say, “well, I got married based on fraud, he hid from me that he was a total jerk and he also has been arrested.”

I am sorry, that is not enough to get you an annulment. The fraud would have to apply to some key part of the marriage. Such as, one spouse cannot have kids, and they purposely hid that from the other spouse before the marriage.

As part of an annulment proceeding, you would file a complaint just like a divorce and list out the parties assets, their children, etc. You would do many of the same steps in an annulment case you would do in a divorce case. However, the main difference, is that at the end of an annulment, you can say you were never married to the other person because the marriage has been deemed to have never occurred.

Now, in reality, the outcome of what happens, whether you get a divorce or an annulment, probably will not be that much different, but to some people, they would prefer an annulment as opposed to a divorce if they have the grounds for one. This can be because of religious reasons, or simply a personal preference.


Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including divorce, custody, criminal, personal injury, and estate planning. Visit for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.