A divorce is the dissolution of a legal marriage; an annulment is an official declaration that the marriage was never valid in the first place. The grounds for an annulment are very specific and not always available. For instance, an annulment may be available in the case of incurable impotency, if one of the parties has been legally declared incompetent or mentally ill, or if one party was incapable of consent due to age or lack of understanding. An annulment can also be sought if a person was tricked or forced into marriage, if the woman was pregnant with another man’s child, or if the marriage cannot be consummated, but an annulment on these grounds must be sought within six months of the marriage. Also, if the parties did not follow the legal requirements for obtaining a marriage license and did not later solemnize their marriage and cohabitate, the marriage may be annulled.
A couple in any of the above situations may continue to live as a married couple if they choose to. A bigamous or incestuous marriage, on the other hand, is void from the very start and is never valid.