When looking to dissolve a marriage, the first option most people consider is divorce. There are actually two ways to dissolve a marriage though: divorce and annulment. While a divorce acknowledges a legal separation, an annulment legally treats the parties as if they were never married in the first place. Only certain circumstances allow for an annulment but it can be another option for those with issues that arose in their marriage.

An annulment voids a marriage based on the grounds that the marriage never should have been valid in the first place. In Michigan, an annulment can be sought if you or your spouse is:

· Underage

· Insane

· Physically unable to consummate the marriage

· Forced into the marriage

· Incapable of decision-making, such as intoxicated or mentally ill, when agreeing to the marriage

What if we already have children?

You can still seek annulment if you had a child with your spouse as long as one of the above reasons for annulment is present. Your children will still be legally legitimate even if your marriage is not. Like divorce, court will decide on a child custody order and visitation rights based on the child’s best interests. Child support may also be ordered.

How is property divided?

In divorce, property division is based on the couple’s circumstances and marital assets, sometimes resulting in a 50/50 split or other divisions, like 60/40. However, an annulment voids the marriage from being valid in the first place. This means that you could lose out on property that you did not legally own. If your spouse was the legal owner of your home, they do not need your consent to sell it and you technically do not have ownership rights to it.

Should I choose annulment over divorce?

People have different reasons for seeking annulment. Some seek annulment over divorce for religious reasons while others want to avoid the stigma of a divorce, avoid the divorce process, or they feel freer after an annulment.

Even if your marriage qualifies for annulment, keep in mind that you cannot receive alimony after an annulment. You may also lose out on assets if you were not the owner because they will no longer be marital assets. Look at your situation and plan ahead before making a final decision.

The best course of action is to schedule a free consultation with a family law attorney and talk through your options. Because annulment is very situation-specific, an attorney can help you along the process and provide legal advice while explaining your divorce options if an annulment is not possible.