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What is the Difference Between an Annulment and a Divorce?

The Harris Law Firm

An annulment is a procedure which “cancels” the marriage. If the Court grants an annulment it is like the marriage never existed. A divorce, or dissolution of marriage, ends but does not cancel the marriage.

In Colorado, an annulment is called a “Declaration of Invalidity.” Generally, you need to prove to the Court that your marriage was not valid from the beginning. To prove this, you must show one of the following:

  • A party did not have the mental capacity to consent to the marriage;
  • A party lacked the physical capacity to consummate the marriage by sexual intercourse and the other party was unaware of this at the time of the marriage;
  • A party was under the required age and did not have consent of his/her parents/guardians or the required judicial approval;
  • A party got married based on the other party’s fraudulent act or representation which went to the essence of the marriage;
  • One or both parties entered the marriage under duress;
  • One or both parties entered the marriage as a joke or dare;
  • A party was married to someone else at the time of the marriage;
  • The parties were prohibited as siblings or uncle and niece or aunt and nephew;
  • The marriage was prohibited by the law of the state the marriage occurred.

If you were married in Colorado, you can file for a Declaration of Invalidity of Marriage in Colorado in the district court in the county where you or the other party lives. If you were married outside of Colorado, one party must have resided in Colorado for 30 days prior to filing a Petition for Declaration of Invalidity of Marriage in Colorado. Both parties can file the Petition for Declaration of Invalidity of Marriage jointly, or if one party files a Petition, they will also need to have the other party served with a Summons and Petition and Case Information Sheet.

There are strict time frames in which you can file for an invalidity of marriage. If you do not file within those time frames, the Court will not grant an annulment. If the Court finds your marriage is not valid, you may not need to go through the actual divorce process as if you were married. However, if the Court refuses to grant an annulment, the parties will need to dissolve their marriage.

The Court may also deal with issues concerning finances, property, and children in the annulment process, if appropriate. The process to do so is similar to how the court addresses these issues in a dissolution of marriage. Because of this, an annulment often will take as long as a divorce in Colorado.

Annulments are difficult to get in Colorado. The requirements are sometimes difficult to meet. As a result, annulments are rare. It is often easier and sometimes even quicker to get a divorce rather than an annulment in Colorado.

Our attorneys at The Harris Law Firm can help you understand your options for ending a marriage in Colorado. Call (303) 622-5502 or contact us online to speak with a lawyer.


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If you are in need of a compassionate, skilled, and experienced Colorado family law attorney, The Harris Law Firm can help. If you have a legal question about a domestic relations issue, including divorce and the allocation of parental rights, please complete our contact form below. A member of our legal team will be in touch with you soon to arrange a private consultation with one of our experienced attorneys. Together we can find a resolution.
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