Annulment, in many ways, has a similar effect to divorce—it makes a married couple unmarried. At the same time, it’s approach is completely different. While a divorce ends a marriage, an annulment says the marriage never existed.
To be annulled, a marriage generally must be shown to be either void or voidable. Most states have established statutory grounds under which annulments can be granted. Annulments may granted if the marriage was never consummated, if the individuals were too closely related, if one spouse was unable to legally consent to the marriage (due to being underage, insane, or intoxicated), or if one spouse intentionally deceived the other to bring about the marriage.
Beyond that, annulments are often granted if the marriage was very brief or if one or both parties are religiously opposed to divorce.
Annulments may be most common among members of the Catholic Church. As the church does not permit divorce, those who married in the church and wish to do so again must generally obtain an annulment—both civilly and from the church.
Likely the most famous annulment involved Henry VIII, who split from the Catholic Church when it wouldn’t give him one and installed himself as the head of the new Church of England so he could annul his own marriage to Catherine of Aragon (he later also annulled his marriages to Anne Boleyn and Anne of Cleves). In recent years, celebrity couples have seemingly competed for who can file for annulments the quickest: Sophia Bush after five months of marriage to “One Tree Hill” co-star Chad Michael Murray in 2003, Renée Zellweger after four months wed to Kenney Chesney in 2005, and Britney Spears after a whopping 55 hours of marriage to childhood friend Jason Alexander in 2004. And then there was the Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries break-up in 2011—after 72 days of marriage, she filed for divorce…and a month later he filed for an annulment (the saga was still awaiting trial as of the spring of 2013).
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