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Wisconsin Family Law Articles

Annulment or Divorce?

The end of a marriage is a difficult time, with many decisions to be made, ranging from child custody visitation agreements to division of credit card debt. You may be faced with the choice of whether to seek an annulment or a divorce. Before making this very important decision, you need to understand the fundamental difference between the two. A divorce will put an end to your marriage, whereas an annulment makes it so your marriage never legally existed. Like a divorce, however, a judge can still order child custody, property division, and support.  An annulment also will not remove the parentage presumption for children. In other words, if children were born during the marriage, even if the marriage is annulled, the father will not have to bring a suit to establish paternity as he would have to do if the child was born outside of wedlock.

In order to be granted an annulment, you will need to allege and prove one of the specific grounds available. These grounds include:

  • 1) mental incapacity
  • 2) one spouse was underage
  • 3) one spouse fraudulently hid something essential to the marriage
  • 4) one spouse forced, threatened, or coerced the other into getting married
  • 5) one spouse is physically unable to have sexual intercourse
  • 6) the spouses are first cousins or closer related
  • 7) one spouse was already married
  • 8) the marriage occurred within six months of one of the spouse’s divorce.

If you are unable to prove one of these very specific grounds, you will be unable to get an annulment and will need to file for divorce instead. Note that being married for a very short time is not a ground for annulment, despite the pervasive urban myth to the contrary. Unlike a traditional divorce, there is no waiting period to get an annulment in Wisconsin.

By contrast, neither spouse must prove grounds to be granted a divorce. Wisconsin is a “no-fault” state, which means neither spouse must prove any wrong-doing by the other spouse in order to get a divorce. You only need to state that the marriage is no longer working, and the court will grant a divorce to the requesting spouse. Wisconsin has a mandatory waiting period of 120 days from the date the petition is filed until the divorce can be granted, even if the parties have settled all of the issues.


If you have questions about the divorce process, we are here to help. Call us and talk about your goals and we can help point you in the right direction. 

Contact our family law office to learn more about Wisconsin divorce law. Get legal advice from Karyn Youso, the family law attorney and mediator with over 27 years of experience.