What Is the Difference Between Annulment and Divorce in Nevada?

Annulment and divorce are two different legal processes that a married couple may use to end a marriage in Nevada. While divorce is a commonly used process, annulment is only available in specific limited circumstances. In this article, Las Vegas family law attorney Joseph Gersten provides a summary of the primary differences between annulment and divorce. If you are not sure which process is the right approach for your situation, talking with a lawyer can help you determine which process fits your circumstances.

Difference in the Legal Effect

One of the primary differences between annulment and divorce is the legal effect. When a Nevada court grants an annulment, the marriage is declared as invalid. In the eyes of the law, an annulment means that the marriage never legally existed.

In contrast, a divorce decree does not invalidate a marriage. A divorce permanently ends a legal marriage. For all legal purposes, the marriage did exist legally from the time the parties married to the date of the divorce decree.

Despite the difference in legal effect, the authority of a Nevada court is similar for annulment and divorce. The court may determine child support and custody, as well as division of property and responsibility for debt as part of the proceeding. However, spouses who get an annulment typically do not receive alimony (spousal support), since an annulled marriage is legally invalid.

Basis for Annulment v. Divorce

Different Nevada statutes establish the grounds for annulment and divorce. A Nevada divorce can be based on the spouses being incompatible, one spouse being legally insane, or the spouses living separately and apart for more than a year.

The grounds for an annulment are completely different from those for divorce. A judge may only grant an annulment if the petitioning party (or parties, in a joint petition) demonstrates one of several statutory reasons through evidence provided to the court. Following is a summary of the statutory grounds for an annulment.


A marriage can be annulled is one of the parties defrauded the other person to obtain consent to the marriage. Generally, the fraud must relate to a falsehood about an issue important to consent. The fraud must be so serious that the person would not have consented to the marriage if they knew the truth. The petitioning party must prove the fraud to the court by clear and convincing evidence.

Fraud does not support an annulment if the defrauded person learns of the fraud and then willingly continues to live with the person who committed the fraud.

Lack of Understanding

Annulment may be granted on the basis that one of the parties did not understand their own actions to the point of being incapable of agreeing to the marriage. Clear and satisfactory proof of the lack of understanding must be provided to the court in this situation.

Insanity of one of the spouses at the time of the marriage may also be the basis for an annulment. This ground is not available if the parties willingly continue to live together after the person’s sanity was regained.

Previously Existing Marriage

If one of the parties was already legally married to another person at the time of the marriage for which annulment is sought, the previously existing marriage provides the grounds for an annulment. Nevada law specifically provides that an annulment does not prevent criminal prosecution for bigamy under these circumstances.

Lack of Required Consent for a Minor

Nevada law requires a person to be at least 18 years old to be able to consent to marriage. A person between ages 16 and 18 years must have consent of at least one parent (or guardian). A person under age 16 must have consent of at least one parent or guardian and the consent of a state court judge.

If one of the parties to the marriage was under the age of 18 at the time of the marriage and did not have the legally required consent(s), grounds for annulment may exist. However, there are limitations. First, a petition for annulment must be filed within one year of the minor reaching the age 18 years. In addition, if the minor is willingly living together with the spouse as a married couple, an annulment must be requested before the minor reaches the age of 18 years.

Close Blood Relationship

An annulment can be based on the parties being closely related by blood. If the parties are closer than second cousins or cousins of the half-blood, a legal basis for an annulment exists.

Void v. Voidable Marriages

Nevada law on annulment addresses both void (NRS 125.290) and voidable marriages (NRS 125.300). Under NRS 125.290, marriages between closely related persons and bigamous marriages (one spouse is already married to another person) are void under state law. An annulment is not necessary for the marriage to be invalid, but in some situations, an individual may wish to obtain an annulment order as legal proof that the marriage is void.

In contrast, the other reasons for an annulment (established in NRS 125.300) provide the basis for a voidable marriage. An annulment order is necessary for a voidable marriage to be declared invalid.

Residency Requirement

For spouses to be eligible for a Nevada divorce, at least one spouse must reside in the state for at least six weeks before the divorce petition is filed. For annulment of a Nevada marriage, there is no residency requirement. However, for Nevada annulment of an out-of-state marriage, at least one party must reside in Nevada for at least six weeks prior to filing the annulment petition.

Deciding Between Annulment and Divorce

If you are not sure whether your situation meets the requirements for an annulment or divorce, you should talk with an experienced Nevada family lawyer. Your lawyer helps you determine the best approach for your circumstances. In some cases, an attorney may recommend filing a petition that requests either an annulment or a divorce, which is permitted in Nevada.

The legal evidentiary standards are extremely high for an annulment on any basis. Nevada annulments are much less frequent than divorces. Attempting to get an annulment without help from a knowledgeable lawyer can result in significant problems. In addition, the court’s authority to decide child custody and support and property rights in either type of proceeding — and alimony or spousal support in a divorce — is another crucial reason that legal representation is important in either type of proceeding.

Talk with an Experienced Nevada Annulment and Divorce Attorney — Free Consultation

If you got married in Las Vegas and want to explore asking a Nevada court for an annulment or divorce, Las Vegas family law attorney Joseph Gersten is here to help. Attorney Gersten always uses his extensive experience in domestic matters and litigation to protect his clients’ interests and pursue efficient, cost-effective resolution of an issue.

At The Gersten Law Firm, we work with clients on a broad range of family law issues in Las Vegas, Henderson, and elsewhere in Clark County. Your initial consultation is always free-of-charge at The Gersten Law Firm. Call 702.857.8777 or complete our online form to schedule an appointment.

Categories: Nevada Family Law