Divorces can be volatile, hostile and unpleasant, and they usually are. Disagreements about everything from child support and alimony to who gets the house are fairly common. As such, many people might opt for an annulment, versus the hassle of an extended divorce. However, if there are still some major disagreements with regards to the children, an annulment may not be the best option, in which case an "amicable divorce" may be the right option. Here are the key differences between an annulment and an amicable divorce.

The Annulment

An annulment of a marriage is granted by the courts (and sometimes by the church, if you are Catholic) when both parties just want out of the marriage.

You and your spouse agree to:

  • Sell all that you have shared, wipe the slate clean and depart from each other.
  • Typically, an annulment works best when there are no children born to the marriage, but visitation of the children is typically voided by one parent as well. In other words, one parent walks away from the other, the children stay with the primary parent, and only see the secondary parent when arrangements are made to do so.
  • There are usually no orders for child support, which leaves the full financial responsibility up to the primary parent.
  • Typically, there is also no order for alimony or spousal support, and you and your spouse void all rights to pensions, retirement benefits, etc., with the understanding that your marriage and union did not exist, and neither of you has any rights to anything gained by the other from now on.

You may also waive all rights to revisit the usual divorce issues in court in the future, meaning you cannot come back and request child support at any time, nor can you sue for half of your ex-spouse's pension. You essentially start clean and fresh, and you accept what that means.

Amicable Divorce

An amicable divorce is a whole other ball of wax. You may or may not be in agreement with your divorcing spouse over key matters, but you work out a feasible plan of action, either through your lawyers or through the court's mediators. You both want custody of the children, so a parenting and visitation plan is drawn up that serves the best interests of the children. Property is either given and shared equally, or sold and the profits of the sales are split (e.g., you get the house, your spouse gets the mini-van and the sports car, etc.). A fair and just amount of child support is established, usually with adherence to state requirements for support, and you both may choose to forego spousal support under certain conditions. In short, you create a plan to share everything, including the children and the responsibilities, but from here on in, you do not share a living space or share a life together.