So what is annulment??. Picture marraige as a contract, a binding agreement between two people, preferably and in most jurisdictions, between a man and a woman. Just like most contracts, it could be valid, voidable, or void. It is valid if all its components are present, ie, consent, object, and consummation (or euphemistcially delivery as in a contract of sale). In a marriage, of course, consent is the “I do” in the bringing together of a man and a woman in matrimony, holy or otherwise. The object of course is the union of the parties which in the eyes of the law makes them “one”. This is manifest in certain common everyday things like taxation and property. In most jurisdictions, a married couple is taxed as one entity from a theoretical point of view, and when a person gets married he or she generally enters into a property relationship as well which binds most of what each has earned for the benefit of the family. Lastly, but no less importantly, is the consummation which in marriage is widely considered the physical (or sexual) union. Much debate though has been made on whether or not a marriage can exist without sex, at least at the beginning right??
Anyway, going back to our analogy, if there is any defect in the consent (the “I do’), the object (the joining together as man and wife), or the consummation (or delivery in more ways than one, pardon the pun), then the validity of the contract is put into question. In an annulment, the defect generally must come into play after the celebration of the marriage or in a stricter sense must have existed at the very time of, if it is not by itself the very cause of , the celebration of the marriage. Things like fraud, as in the case of the woman who conceals the fact that she is pregnant by a man other than her husband who agreed to the marriage on the assumption that he is the father of the child. The marriage is valid in the beginning but because of the fraud, it is valid until it is annulled. Normally, there are periods within which an annulment can be filed.
In a divorce, on the other hand, and this is the way the term is generally understood in most jurisdictions allowing for divorce, the defect is made manifest after the celebration of the marriage. Things like the infamous “irreconcillable differences” , “no fault divorce”, or “consensual divorce” are common terms. You do not necessarily have to have a specific reason to terminate the marriage, other than the agreement of the spouses.
In a declaration of nullity, however, the marriage is invalid from the very start. A common situation is the bigamous marriage which is almost universally considered void from the very beginning. It is wrong from the start and nothing can be done in order to cure the defect in the contract. Other examples are incapacity (marriage before the statutory age of consent which varies from one jurisdiction to the next), lack of consent as in a “gun shot wedding”, incestuous (generally between a descendatn and a direct ascendant) simualtions like a wedding between two men or two women (only when not allowed by the law of a particular state).