Annulments and Divorces both accomplish the same result, that being the end of a marriage, however the reasons for getting an annulment and the reasons for getting a divorce differ significantly. A divorce will end a marriage because of something that happened during the marriage, whether that is infidelity, abuse, an inability to communicate, irreconcilable differences, etc. An annulment will end a marriage because of something that preexisted the marriage itself. In other words, because of something that existed at the time of the marriage, an annulment will end the marriage, or treat it as if it did not exist.
There are two categories of marriages that may be annulled: "void" and "voidable." A "void" marriage legally never existed. The law approaches these marriages as so repugnant that to end it would treat it as if it actually existed. This usually means you were not legally able to get married in the first place. In Massachusetts, a marriage is "void" if the individuals are too closely related (either by blood or marital relationship, such as a woman and her stepfather), or because the husband or wife was still married to another person at the time of the marriage (the law does not allow you to have more than one spouse).
In Massachusetts, a "voidable" marriage is treated as perfectly valid until there is a court order declaring that it is invalid. This is done through a Complaint for Annulment. In Massachusetts, examples of "voidable" marriages are as follows: when one spouse lacked capacity to marry (such as a marriage to a minor without consent of parents or a judge), one spouse was impotent (this concerns the ability to engage in intercourse, not fertility), the marriage was the product of fraud, or one spouse was intoxicated to the extent that he or she did not have the capacity to consent to the marriage.
Should you have further questions about whether you qualify for an annulment, contact Attorney Justin L. Kelsey, or call 508.655.5980 to schedule a one-hour consultation.