Difference Between Annulment and Divorce in Canada
Divorce and annulment represent two options for ending a marriage or partnership in Canada. Both are court orders issued when a relationship ends. In this article, our divorce lawyer Toronto will walk through both terms and explain their differences and similarities.
What is an annulment?
An annulment is a declaration by the court that the marriage was not legal, therefore allowing the spouses to end the marriage without the need for a divorce. Annulments are very rare in Canada but, if granted, may leave you in a much better position than a divorce would. Annulments are generally very specific, and even if you do seek this form of marriage dissolution, there could be obligations for support and division of property under the Family Law Act.
Difference between annulled and divorced
Is annulled marriage the same as divorce? The biggest difference between a divorce and annulled marriage in Canada is that in an annulment, it is formally declared that the marriage was invalid or never existed, while in a divorce, the court ends a legally valid marriage.
Which is better annulment vs divorce?
Generally, annulments happen a lot faster than divorce proceedings. However, both types of marriage dissolution can attract lengthy legal proceedings and become quite costly. Both divorce and annulment proceedings start the same way. One or both spouses can formally request the court for the marriage dissolution with the help of their lawyer. Divorce and annulment can be low-cost if the parties agree to reach a resolution without many disputes.
Grounds for annulment in Canada
To get an annulment, one must prove that the marriage was legally invalid in the province or country in which it took place.
Below are some common reasons for a marriage annulment in Canada
- If one of the parties was already legally married to someone else at the time of the marriage
- If you or your spouse discovered that you are too closely related to each other (whether through birth or adoption). This will vary from province to province. Most provinces in Canada forbid the marriage of siblings.
- If one or both parties entered the marriage under duress, fraud, coercion, or fear of physical safety
- If you or your spouse were under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the marriage ceremony, which limited your understanding and ability to give consent
- If you or your spouse were under the impression that you were marrying someone else
- If the marriage was not consummated. This can be difficult to prove legally. In most cases, the court will require medical and physiological evaluations to be done to prove that intercourse was impracticable.
- If you or your spouse was under the age of 18 when the marriage took place and married without parental permission
- If one spouse lacked the mental capacity to understand the basic meaning of marriage
- If a spouse concealed a major issue such as substance abuse, criminal record, a child etc
How long do you have to annul a marriage in Canada?
The annulment time frame in Canada will vary from case to case. Generally, the court looks at how long you waited before filing for an annulment. Annulments are rarely granted by the courts, even when the other party doesn’t contest them. It’s recommended that you don’t wait too long before beginning the annulment process. If you have a valid reason that questions the validity of your marriage and would like to begin the annulment process, contact your divorce lawyer immediately. The sooner you file for an annulment, the higher your chances of getting it approved.
How long can you be married and still get an annulment?
Most people assume that an annulment can be quickly and easily granted if they have been married for a very short time. A brief marriage is not legal grounds for annulment. For the marriage to be annulled, you still must meet the annulment requirements stipulated by law. The decision to annul and divorce should not be based on the time you have been married but on the circumstances surrounding the end of your union.
What if your religion recognizes an annulment?
Some religions might dissolve a marriage, but this is not considered a legal annulment. For instance, if the church annuls your marriage on the grounds that a condition that was attached to the marriage was not honoured, you will still be considered legally married under Canadian law.
Additionally, marriages of convenience are not grounds for annulment. This is mainly because the law doesn’t consider what motives each party had when entering into the marriage when determining whether to grant an annulment. Therefore, if a party entered a marriage of convenience, such as for immigration purposes, it cannot be annulled on this ground.
Before you decide to seek an annulment, it’s best to consult a lawyer who can guide you on the specific facts surrounding your case. Both divorces and annulments are complex legal proceedings that need a lawyer who understands the Family Law Act and is ready to offer legal advice for your particular circumstances.