Ending a marriage is never an easy decision, and the journey ahead is often quite challenging. For some couples, it may seem like pursuing a marriage annulment is the simpler option when compared to divorce. Additionally, many assume that it’s an inexpensive way to go. However, it’s critical to learn about the costs associated with a marriage annulment before you move forward, ensuring you have a clear picture of what lies ahead. Here’s what you need to understand about the costs of marriage annulment.
What Is a Marriage Annulment?
A marriage annulment is a legal proceeding that effectively dissolves a marriage. From a legal standpoint, after an annulment is complete, it’s as if the two parties were never married. This differs from a divorce, as the marriage isn’t treated as if it never occurred when the union is ended in that manner.
Essentially, a marriage annulment retroactively voids past marriage proceedings. The rules for an annulment vary by state, and you typically need suitable grounds to pursue an annulment. For example, annulments could be granted for reasons like fraud or duress.
Additionally, there can be time-based restrictions. Some states won’t consider an annulment petition after a couple has been married for more than a particular amount of time, with the exact amount of time varying by state.
The Cost of Marriage Annulment
The cost of a marriage annulment can vary significantly, ranging from about $500 to $5,000+. Usually, the biggest factor is whether the annulment is contested. Uncontested annulments are far simpler to administer and may not require a court hearing, reducing the total cost.
With a contested annulment, the party responding to the petition is effectively challenging the material representations. Typically, that leads to a court hearing where a judge decides if there are suitable grounds for the annulment. As a result, this approach is more expensive overall.
Additionally, whether you choose to have an attorney handle the annulment can impact pricing. Whenever you hire a lawyer, you have an additional cost. As a result, DIY annulments cost less than those that rely on an attorney.
Another point to consider is the cost of not splitting what is classically regarded as marital assets. With an annulment, it’s like the marriage never occurred. As a result, parties are relinquishing their rights to the marital distribution of assets. Similarly, neither partner will have the ability to pursue alimony or spousal support.
If a contested annulment results in a judge determining that there aren’t grounds for an annulment, that usually means that couples can only dissolve the marriage via a divorce. If that occurs, then the splitting of marital assets, spousal support, and similar points end up back on the table. Additionally, it can result in additional costs, as each member of the couple now has to start the divorce process, and that comes with more expenses.
How to Reduce the Cost of a Marriage Annulment
If you want to keep the cost of a marriage annulment as low as possible, the first step you may want to take is to explore whether you can use the DIY approach. Whether this is viable may depend on whether both spouses feel an annulment is wise and justified. If so, then that reduces the likelihood of the responding party contesting the annulment.
However, if you’re not comfortable with handling the filing yourself or are concerned that the annulment will be contested, shop around for an attorney. Lawyers have different fee structures and price points, so some are more affordable than others. The goal is to find solid representation at the best possible price, not just to find the cheapest attorney. That ensures your lawyer is suitably capable, which is an essential part of the overall equation.
Is there anything else you think couples need to know about the cost of marriage annulment? Did you go through an annulment and want to tell others about that experience? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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