You may have heard the term civil annulment used when a married couple decides to end their marriage. This form of ending a marriage can be used on a limited basis within certain circumstances. For most couples, divorce, not civil annulment, is the way to end their marriage.

What’s the difference between divorce and civil annulment?

Divorce in Arizona

Arizona is a no-fault divorce state meaning the person petitioning for divorce does not have to prove marital misconduct. The only requirement is that one or both of the parties must be a full-time Arizona resident for at least 90-days. Even if only one person wants the divorce, it can still happen as long as it is “irretrievably broken.”

A divorce does not negate the marriage, like a civil annulment does. It only ends the marriage and divides the assets and debt.

Civil Annulment in Arizona

Civil Annulment refers to the court process that can be taken, in certain circumstances, to say that a marriage never occurred in the eyes of the law. This is different than an annulment one would request from a church. While some circumstances are clear cut cases for annulment, others are not.

Grounds for civil annulment in Arizona include incestuous marriage, underage marriage without parental consent, or bigamy (married to more than one person at the same time). Other circumstances, which are more difficult but not impossible to prove, include fraud, mental capacity, and lack of consent.

It should be noted that even if the marriage ends with a civil annulment, the parties may need to file documents regarding custody or visitation of children, child support, and division of property.

If you think you qualify for a civil annulment, consider this:

The person who acquired the most property or whose spouse has incurred significant debt during the marriage is at a distinct advantage when seeking an annulment. The law makes it so the marriage never happened. There is no separation of property and debts like there would be if the marriage ended in divorce.

Arizona is a community property state meaning property and debt are split evenly when a couple divorces. Someone who owns a lot of property would have to split it with their spouse in the event of a divorce. They would also have to share the debt, no matter who incurred it, as long as the debt occurred during the marriage.

Because of these – and other – nuances of the law, we recommend consulting with a family law attorney like Stuart and Blackwell before filing for annulment or divorce in Arizona. Call us today at 480-420-2900 to schedule an appointment.