Differences Between an Annulment and Divorce

When separation is on the horizon, couples must decide how they want to legally separate. In Colorado, married couples can obtain an annulment or divorce, though an annulment might not be available to most couples.

Requirements for an Annulment

An annulment also called a “declaration of invalidity” in Colorado, legally renders your marriage invalid. Thanks to popular culture, many people assume that an annulment is a quick and easy way to end a short marriage. Actually, annulments are available in only limited circumstances, as spelled out in the state’s statute:

  • One or both spouses lacked the required mental capacity to get married. For example, they might have been high on drugs at the time of marriage.
  • One spouse lacks the capacity to consummate the marriage and the other did not know. For example, a husband might have hidden his impotence, which is an unwelcome surprise after the marriage.
  • One spouse was not old enough to get married.
  • One or both spouses married only under duress or as a dare.
  • The marriage is void for various legal reasons (incest, bigamy).
  • One spouse procured the marriage through misrepresentation or fraud that cuts to the “heart of the marriage.”

This last one deserves more commentary because it is so vague. The statute does not spell out what cuts to the heart of a marriage, but some examples include marrying so you can get a green card to stay in the country or lying that you are on your deathbed.

If you do not meet one of the above qualifications, then you cannot obtain an annulment. Instead, you will need to divorce.

Requirements for Divorce

There are very few requirements for a divorce. Basically, you must have lived in Colorado long enough so that the state will divorce you. Currently, the residency requirement is 90 days in the state. If you haven’t been domiciled in Colorado for that long, you will need to wait.

Colorado is a no-fault divorce state, meaning you don’t need to accuse your spouse of infidelity or mental illness to get a divorce. Instead, you can claim the marriage has broken down and you can’t repair it.

Why You Might Seek an Annulment

Given how easy it is to divorce, there are rarely situations where you will want to seek an annulment. However, some couples seek an annulment for religious reasons. Depending on your faith, you might face censure or embarrassment if you get divorced. With an annulment, the marriage has never happened, so you can avoid any unpleasant consequences that you fear.

Alternately, you might have lost rights to certain benefits after getting married or remarried. By seeking an annulment, you might be able to reestablish your right to those payments or benefits, which would be lost if you only divorced.

Seek Counsel from an Experienced Colorado Divorce Attorney

If you are contemplating divorce or annulment, we are here to help. The Fort Collins divorce lawyers at Divorce Matters understand the intricacies of both annulment and divorce and can help you end your marriage as efficiently as possible. Schedule your consultation with us today by calling 720-580-6745.

Annulment or Divorce: What’s The Difference?

When speaking with couples who want to legally end their marriages, we sometimes get questions about annulment instead of divorce. Often, people assume that annulments are less expensive, simpler, or less contentious.

Sometimes, people are seeking an annulment instead of divorce for religious purposes, as well. Regardless of the reasons behind seeking an annulment instead of a divorce, Colorado has very specific qualifications for couples seeking annulment.

What’s the difference between an annulment and a divorce?

A divorce puts an end to your marriage legally, so you are no longer recognized as married. On the other hand, an annulment means that your marriage was invalid and never existed. If you are entitled to and receive an annulment, in all records and legal documentation, an annulment makes it so that””for all intents and purposes””your marriage never existed.

So what’s required for an annulment?

Because this is a drastic step””declaring that you were never really married””Colorado’s requirements for annulment are very specific and have to fall within strict timelines. In Colorado, you can only get an annulment if:

  • One party was mentally incapacitated and was not legally able to consent to the marriage. This could be mental illness, or a drug or alcohol addiction. This requirement must be reported within 6 months of discovery.
  • The marriage was not consummated because one party was physically incapable. However, this requirement actually only applies if the other party was unaware of the physical disability when the marriage was initiated. This requirement must be reported within 12 months of discovery.
  • If one party was not yet 18 when married and did not have a guardian’s permission. This requirement must be reported within 24 months and must be reported by the underage party or his/her guardian.
  • The marriage was initiated under false pretenses, such as one party misrepresenting himself or herself, the marriage was forced under duress, and/or occurred under false pretenses.
  • Your spouse was already married. This actually voids the marriage because the marriage was never legal in the first place.
  • The marriage is incestuous.

Legal Steps

Individuals who pursue an annulment instead of a divorce still need to address and resolve nearly all of the same issues as a divorce””particularly as they relate to joint property, maintenance fees, or child custody. The process often takes the same amount of time as a divorce and follows many of the same steps. To apply in the first place, one or the other of you needs to have lived in Colorado for at least 30 days or you must have been married in Colorado, and you will need to apply in the county where you reside.

The initial step in petitioning the Court for a declaration of invalidity is to file a petition, summons and case information sheet, and pay the filing fee in the court that you reside in. You may also need to complete additional forms, such as a sworn financial statement, parenting plan, and separation agreement””similar forms to those filed for a divorce, depending on your individual circumstances. After you file your petition, your spouse will have an opportunity to file a response.

After this response period, you may need to complete additional forms, depending on the specific facts of your case before scheduling and attending your final hearing. At the hearing, the judge or magistrate will grant or deny your annulment, and will also enter other orders that may be necessary to deal with joint property, debts, assets, and children.


While some people think getting an annulment would be simpler or cheaper than getting a divorce, in reality, this is not the case. If you are seeking an annulment, look into it carefully before making that leap. In many cases, you may not meet the requirements to request an annulment and will need to pursue a divorce. Annulments and divorce involve many complicated issues and””while you can pursue them on your own””the advice of an attorney could save you money, time and stress.