The Psychological Impact of Annulment: A Deep Dive into the Emotional Side of Legal Proceedings

Annulment and the psychological impact

An annulment is an alternative option to divorce for some couples who need to legally end their marriage. Divorce effectively dissolves the relationship, including the spouse’s title and any marital obligations while dividing assets and planning for spouses and children after the marriage. Annulment, however, declares that matrimonial union has never occurred at all in the eyes of the law. In Arizona, if a judge approves your request, the court will issue a court order that declares the marriage null and void.

Annulments most often occur in marriages that should never have happened to begin with, or those that can endanger a person’s way of life. Thus, it’s valuable to understand the emotional and psychological impacts this legal process may have.

Understanding Annulment

To petition the court for an annulment in Arizona, you must establish grounds for annulment that the state recognizes. This means you need a valid reason to request an annulment of your marriage, but the qualifications under Arizona law are very specific. You and your annulment attorney must provide sufficient evidence that the marriage either lacked consent from either spouse, was legally prohibited (e.g., involved bigamy or incest), was fraudulent, or wasn’t consummated.

If approved, the judge will declare the marriage invalid and annulled through an official court order. This differs significantly from the divorce process, which does not require any qualifying reasons for approval. Divorce also has implications for each spouse’s future after the end of marriage, whereas annulment has potentially farther-reaching, even retroactive, effects.

What Are the Effects of Annulment?

Arizona’s community property laws that are in effect for divorce cases don’t apply to couples pursuing an annulment, but the results are somewhat similar. Each spouse usually retains the assets and debts that they had prior to the marriage, with the main goal being to return each party to a point close to the initial financial standing they experienced before getting married. Assets acquired jointly during the marriage are divided equally. In applicable cases, child custody/support guidelines for annulments are the same as in divorce proceedings.

There are some rights that divorced spouses are awarded that do not extend to annulled couples. For example, after a marriage is annulled, requesting alimony is not permitted, and certain rights gained through the marriage can be altered or lost. If either spouse entered into a contract or other agreement while married within which the marriage itself was relevant, those agreements and whatever they may affect can be retroactively changed once the marriage was deemed legally invalid. Areas that may be affected by this include taxes, inheritance, guardianship, the right to make legal decisions for another party, and more.

Emotional Implications of Annulment

Emotional Implications of Annulment

Besides the specific process required to obtain an annulment, its often lengthy proceedings, and the legal effects and consequences it brings, there are also the emotional and mental impacts of having a marriage annulled. Unfortunately, these are rarely discussed or examined at length.

While the painful feelings and difficulties that an annulment evokes can often be similar to those experienced while going through a divorce, it’s important to recognize the extended impact annulment may have on someone’s emotional and mental state. Divorcing couples often grieve the end of their marriage, while couples going through the annulment process are ultimately questioning the validity of their marriage in its entirety. Whether you are trying to establish grounds for annulment or arguing against the marriage’s likely questionable or unlawful start, analyzing your relationship during legal proceedings under others’ scrutiny can be taxing and overwhelming.

As everyone’s circumstances are different, each person’s emotional reaction and ability to cope with annulment will look different. For example, a major contributing factor to the emotional toll you may experience is whether the decision to annul was mutual or requested by one spouse. Certainly, to be the spouse who did not elect for an annulment or agree with its assertions can be upsetting and emotionally demanding. Additionally, how long the marriage lasted and if children were involved can affect the degree of emotional turmoil from annulment.

Even if you want the annulment, you can certainly feel conflicted and lost. You may even suffer from depression and anxiety. Divulging the details and nuances of your marriage to strangers during the trial phase can also bring about feelings of shame and embarrassment.

This added layer of complexity can further complicate the sensitive, emotional states of the parties involved. It’s understandable if a spouse feels shame or begins to blame themselves for participating in a marriage that was ultimately declared a marriage that never should have happened. Those who are religious may feel especially disturbed given the importance the sacrament of matrimony may have.

The Mental Health Impacts of Getting An Annulment

The many emotional tolls of annulment may resemble those of divorce, but it can have further psychological impacts due to the implications that the marriage essentially never existed or was ever valid. The process demands that the spouses closely examine and question their legal partnership, subjecting it to the scrutiny of others. Any feelings and memories, including those of supposed love and positivity, are being viewed under a new and critical light.

Whether or not you wanted the annulment, it can be taxing to review your life under the assumption that much of what you held important was false. Reliving the memories, including painful ones, can be overwhelming and result in extensive stress on the mind. If one spouse claims the marriage was fraudulent or a result of coercion, the other spouse’s overall worldview or self-image may be shaken.

To feel doubt and question your own life and perspective can be debilitating and provoke psychological struggles that did not exist prior, such as depression and anxiety, among others. At the same time, pursuing an annulment with a combative spouse can be just as harmful to your mental health. To offer enough proof in order to escape a bad situation can be highly stressful and nerve-wracking.

Case Studies

Case Studies

One man describes his experience of dating a woman who was in the midst of pursuing a marriage annulment. Their relationship was apparently passionate but rocky and filled with frequent arguments that couples’ counseling only made worse. He cites his partner’s inexplicably hostile nature but also his torment in dating someone who was still married in the eyes of the church. He felt able and obligated to rescue this woman from her tumultuous life, which he mentions as his motivation to marry her.

However, when the arguments continued even after the marriage began, he lived in misery before divorcing her to maintain his own mental well-being. He was later able to annul the marriage as well. Although appreciative of the relatively simple process and its success, the entire experience left him feeling broken, wary, and turned off from the idea of marriage for fear of annulment for years to come.

If you are feeling especially vulnerable or alone while facing a marriage annulment, it can be wise to consult with an attorney before beginning the process. Allow yourself extra time and get the care needed to appropriately heal. You may opt to focus on yourself by getting in shape, seeking further education, or trying new hobbies.

Expert Opinions

One mental health professional who has served as an expert witness in several annulment tribunals remarks, “In reflecting on a failed marriage, most of us will recognize poor judgment we displayed in choice of partner, and even denial or glossing over problems or incompatibilities that later grew to be reasons for separating. There can be regret toward ineffective or hurtful ways of dealing with a spouse, or sadness about our imperfect or broken ways of relating intimately to another.”

While it is often unavoidable to endure these uncomfortable emotions, it is important to look forward with positivity. You may want to take time to note all the things and people you are grateful to have in your life, as well as accept any support your loved ones offer. You may even venture out and begin meeting people and making friends. It’s healthy to seek some distraction, but it’s important to also acknowledge the depth of your feelings.

What to Remember After Getting an Annulment

Spiritual growth and healing with the annulment process

The same expert shares, “The annulment process may bring spiritual growth and healing.” In addition to working on yourself as a once again newfound and unmarried individual, you may also feel the desire to reconnect or strengthen your relationship with your faith. Your spiritual journey may take you down a new path.

Even if you don’t feel able to heal or explore your spirituality right away, remember these tips about dealing with annulment:

  • Don’t bury your feelings about your annulment. Let yourself feel all the emotions surrounding the dissolution of your marriage as often or as intensely as they come.
  • Give yourself the time to grieve and fully process the annulment and what preceded it. You aren’t required to jump back into a “normal” life that you might assume is expected of you.
  • Take your time, but avoid dwelling on distressing thoughts.
  • It may help you to journal your emotions during this particularly sensitive period of your life.

Resources For Support

The value of therapy and mental health counseling following an annulment cannot be understated. Your family and friends can serve effectively as a supportive group to cheer you up and listen, but the service of a professional can be immensely helpful in processing the several areas of your life that may have been affected by the annulment and guiding your growth going forward. You may also find comfort and progress in support groups made up of individuals having gone or are currently going through a similar experience, whether divorce or annulment. Attending community centers or being active in your place of worship may also be beneficial in your time of healing.

It’s critical to restate the importance of hiring legal counsel during the annulment process. Look for an attorney who will not only effectively and diligently represent you in court proceedings but who is also considerate and compassionate. The emotional impact can feel much less significant if you are thoroughly supported by a skilled annulment lawyer who understands the difficulty a marriage annulment can have on you as a person and not just your legal standing.

Your Phoenix Annulment Attorneys

TVLG Phoenix Annulment Attorneys

It is not wise to ignore the extent annulling a marriage can have on a person’s life, emotional state, and psychological well-being. Take the time you need to develop an understanding of the effects this process may have beyond drawn-out time in court. Then, be sure to allow yourself to express any uncomfortable and painful feelings.

Finally, be sure to hire an attorney who will be there for you as they handle the legal implications of your case. Schedule a consultation with the knowledgeable and empathetic team from The Valley Law Group. Our attorneys can help you understand what’s ahead, navigate the process of annulment, and ensure you feel confident you’re in good hands.


  1. O’Loughlin, M. (2021, December 16). The painful, grace-filled and (hopefully) healing process of getting a Catholic annulment. America Magazine. https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2021/12/16/catholic-annulment-process-241995
  2. Church Annulment. (n.d.). 5 ways to stay positive after an annulment. https://www.churchannulment.com/blog/5-ways-to-stay-positive-after-an-annulment#:~:text=During%20a%20challenging%20time%20like,more%20peace%20down%20the%20line
  3. Church Annulment. (n.d.). The mental health impacts of getting an annulment. https://www.churchannulment.com/blog/the-mental-health-impacts-of-getting-an-annulment-2#:~:text=During%20the%20annulment%20process%2C%20just,they%20feel%20when%20experiencing%20them

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