Annulment Vs. Divorce
A divorce severs marital ties between two parties. Divorces in Tennessee are either no-fault or fault-based. A no-fault divorce can be obtained on the grounds of irreconcilable differences or when the parties have lived separately for two years and don't have minor children. There is a long list of fault grounds for divorce, including impotence, imprisonment for a felony, alcohol or drug addiction, bigamy, cruel and inhumane treatment, abandonment or making life "intolerable." An annulment not only dissolves the marriage, it treats the marriage as if never existed.
Void Marriage Annulment
In general, a marriage is void for three reasons in Tennessee. If a spouse is homosexual, the marriage may be annulled. An incestuous marriage also may be voided -- in Tennessee, you can't marry close biological relatives, such as parents, children, grandparents, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews. In addition, you can't marry your adoptive parents, adopted children or half brothers and sisters. Public policy requires that you can't get married if you are already married to another person as bigamous marriages are illegal.
Voidable Marriage Annulment
If a party to a marriage is considered a victim, she can ask the court for an annulment based on the theory she did not properly consent to the marriage. If it turns out your spouse is incurably insane, forced you to marry him or committed fraud by misrepresenting himself, the marriage may be deemed voidable by a Tennessee court and annulled. Other grounds include marrying someone who is underage without the consent of the minor's parents or a court.
In Tennessee, you can request the custody of your children if your marriage is annulled, but not alimony. However, if there are legal grounds for divorce that are also legal grounds for annulment -- impotence and bigamy are two examples -- you can file for divorce in order to obtain alimony and an equitable split of the marital property. On the other hand, an annulment requires the court to restore property to the parties who owned it prior to the voidable marriage. Although annulments in the past resulted in children from a void marriage becoming bastards in the eyes of the law, more enlightened statutes in both Tennessee and elsewhere now treat the children as legitimate.