Annulment vs. Divorce in Colorado — What Is the Difference?

April 16, 2022

Annulment vs. Divorce

The main difference between an annulment and a divorce is that an annulment is when a judge declares that a marriage never existed, whereas a divorce ends an existing, valid marriage. With a divorce, each spouse will be considered single once all the papers are signed. In Colorado, there is not such a thing as a court order called “annulment of marriage.” Instead, one can ask the judge for a “declaration of invalidity,” which is similar to what other states call “annulment,” and will declare that the marriage was never legal or valid to begin with. At the end of a declaration of invalidity,” from a legal standpoint, it will be as if the marriage never existed.

After an annulment, the two people involved will have their lives go back to what they were before the marriage. However, after a divorce, each spouse’s life could look very different depending on how the divorce ended in terms of taxation and legal matters. An easy way to remember the difference between the two marriage endings is that an annulment is like a backspace button, and a divorce is a reset button.

Religious Annulment vs. Legal Annulment

There is a difference between a religious annulment and a legal annulment. With a religious annulment, the diocese of the Catholic Church will decide whether a couple can obtain an annulment. The diocese may grant the annulment on the basis of misrepresentation, fraud, emotional instability, and lack of maturity. With a religious annulment, if children are involved, they may not be considered legitimate in the eyes of your religion once the annulment has been granted.

With a legal annulment, a judge will decide whether the annulment can be granted. As a no-fault state, Colorado does not make individuals prove fault to receive a divorce. It is generally based on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. However, to receive an annulment, the filing party must establish legal grounds to do so by proving one of the following:

  • Misrepresentation of marital fact
  • Fraud
  • Concealment of major fact
  • Lack of mental capacity
  • Not meeting the proper age of consent
  • Impotency
  • Duress
  • Incest
  • Misunderstanding

What Is the Annulment Process?

A variety of parties can file for an annulment. These include either party of the marriage, the other legal spouse, the parents of an underage party, the state, or the children of either party, as long as they are not minors.

For an annulment to be approved in Colorado, the judge must see it as voidable or void. If the grant determines it is voidable, the marriage may be able to exist under certain circumstances. An example of this would be if an underage person’s guardian gives consent. If a judge determines a marriage is void, that means the marriage was never valid and therefore never legal.

Whether you are going through a divorce or an annulment, assets, and property must be divided, and child custody and child support must be decided on before one of these two legal decisions is granted.

The timeline and cost for an annulment vary from case to case. If one party contests the annulment, it is going to take a lot longer to go through court — which can also cause the costs of legal fees to rise. This is also true in divorce proceedings.

If no one contests the annulment, then the cost is likely to be much lower. In cases where spouses agree on the terms of the separation or can come to a relatively quick agreement, annulments and divorces tend to be very similar in cost.


Q: Which one is better: annulment or divorce?

A: There is no right answer as to whether an annulment or divorce is better, as they both depend on certain situations. If someone is looking to end a marriage based on legal issues such as fraud or misunderstanding, an annulment might be the right choice as the marriage will be viewed as never existing in the first place. If someone is looking to end a marriage because of irreconcilable differences, a divorce is the better option. Keep in mind that a case must meet very specific guidelines for an annulment to be granted.

Q: What qualifies you for an annulment in Colorado?

A: To qualify for an annulment in Colorado, you must be able to prove any of the following:

  • Fraud
  • Not meeting proper age of consent
  • Incest
  • Concealment of major fact
  • Lack of mental capacity, such as being under the influence of alcohol
  • Impotency
  • Duress
  • Misunderstanding

Talking to a divorce lawyer can help you understand if you qualify for one of these reasons.

Q: How long after marriage can you get an annulment in Colorado?

A:  Depending on the reason, you will have a deadline to file upon learning of the ground of annulment. If you are filing for lack of capacity to consent, fraud, duress, jest/dare, you have six months. If one partner is unable to consummate the marriage, either party has 12 months to file. Someone who is filing due to lack of underage consent has 24 months from the date of marriage. A void marriage can be filed any time before the death of the spouse.

Q: Why do people get divorced instead of getting an annulment?

A: The main reason people choose a divorce over an annulment is because they still want the marriage to have legally existed. Most of the time, spouses have some property or assets that need to be divided, and this cannot happen in an annulment. However, other reasons someone might choose a divorce is because they don’t meet the qualifications to be considered for an annulment. Annulments have strict guidelines one must meet to be granted by a judge.

Contact Johnson Law Group Today

If you or someone you know is looking to get a divorce or an annulment and are unsure of which one you should file for, contact us today. We understand how confusing the process can be to file for both an annulment and a divorce. Working with a Colorado divorce lawyer can help make this stressful time a little bit easier and quicker. We can answer your questions, lead you in the right direction, and make sure the proper steps are being followed.

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Written by Family Law Attorney Myles S. Johnson
Divorce doesn’t have to be dramatic. For the litigants, losing your spouse is significant enough. But you can choose the way it affects your daily life. The only guarantee I can give is that the feeling that you have right now will not be the feeling you end with. This is a season in your life, and it must be approached that way.
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