In the state of Massachusetts, there are two ways to legally end a marriage – divorce and annulment.  There are different requirements and end results for each. This blog discusses the differences between Massachusetts divorce versus annulment.


A divorce is a court procedure which results in the termination of a marriage.  It declares a marriage null and void and allows each party to remarry. It is commonly used in situations where issues such as child custody, child support and visitation, and property division need to be resolved.

A divorce can be no-fault or fault-based. A no-fault divorce is filed because of the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, either jointly or by one party. Fault-based divorce is filed by one party on the grounds of cruel and abusive treatment, adultery, impotence, non-support, desertion (of at least one year), gross and confirmed habits of intoxication, or a prison sentence of at least 5 years.


A civil annulment is a court procedure used to prove that a marriage was never valid (“void”) or to prove that it should not be legally recognized (“voidable”). It differs from divorce because the end result is that the marriage is treated as though it never took place. Annulment is often used in short-term marriages (weeks or months).

In Massachusetts, to be “void” from the start, one of three situations must exist:

  • Consanguinity (too closely related by blood)
  • Affinity (too closely related by marriage)
  • Bigamy (one party was already married at the time he/she entered the second marriage)

For a marriage to be “voidable”, there must be proof of at least one of the following:

  • That one spouse lacked the mental capacity to marry (for example, one spouse was under the legal age to marry or was under the influence of drugs or alcohol).
  • That one spouse is impotent (lacks the ability to sexually perform, not just the ability to have children).
  • That there was fraud going into the marriage (for example, one party married to avoid deportation but led the other party to believe otherwise).
  • That one spouse was under duress.

MELROSE, MA Divorce versus Annulment

The end result of both a divorce and an annulment is the dissolution of marriage. The difference between a Melrose, MA divorce versus annulment is that a divorce cancels a marriage whereas an annulment treats the marriage as though it never existed. For assistance with annulments or divorces in Massachusetts, contact the Martino Law Group.