Serving Clients in Knox, Blount, Anderson, Loudon, Sevier & Roane Counties

Annulment and Divorce: The Basics

What happens when you have just gotten married but realize you have made a terrible mistake?  How quickly can you get out? You have two options: you can ask the court for an annulment, or a divorce. There are pros and cons to each approach, and sometimes an annulment is not going to be available to you.

A divorce is what you get when you want your marriage to be declared over. An annulment is what you get when you want your marriage to be declared to have never happened in the first place.

Tennessee law presumes that if you get a marriage license and have your marriage “solemnized” by a religious leader or civil official, you are married. To defeat that presumption by getting an annulment, you have to show that at the time of the wedding, either:

  • one or both of the parties was insane;
  • person seeking the annulment got married “under duress;”
  • one of the parties was under the age of eighteen (18);
  • consent to the marriage was obtained by force, fraud, or was given by mistake;
  • the defendant is impotent;
  • the woman was pregnant by another man without the husband’s knowledge;
  • “When, for any other reason, the marriage was not binding on the complainant.”

If your marriage is annulled, that means that the courts treat it as never having happened in the first place. This is important to some people for religious reasons. Getting an annulment may also be important if someone wants to contest the right of their spouse to obtain a share of the decedent’s estate.


Generally speaking, annulment proceedings are rare, and harder to obtain than a divorce.

Divorces after “short term marriages” are usually relatively simple affairs.  In a regular Tennessee divorce, the Court divides the property accumulated during the marriage, usually roughly equally. By contrast, if the marriage is of “short duration,” the Court will try to place both parties in the economic position they would have been in were they never married.

That’s because sometimes, one spouse had more assets than the other at the time the couple was married. This prevents the richer spouse from losing half of their life savings to someone they have been married to for less than two years.


The Judge needs a clear picture of what each party had at the time of the marriage, and what the couple has now. Held Law Firm always constructs a financial statement listing both current assets and those each spouse had on the day they got married. This helps the Court see what economic position each spouse needs to be returned to.

However, it may be unrealistic to return to exactly the status you had before you got married.  You may have accumulated credit card debt paying for that honeymoon. Or, you might have had a child. In our experience, courts tend to divide those assets and debts equally. And even in short-term marriages, the Court will work hard to maximize the participation of each parent in the life of the child. Often, granting equal time is the default. The Court has a duty to protect the best interest of the child from the competing interests of each parent.

At Held Law Firm, we have helped people obtain both annulments and divorces following short-term marriages. Our goal is to tailor your solution to meet your emotional needs, address the inevitable financial considerations and put children first. We’re here to help – call (865) 685-4780.

The information in this blog was compiled and written by Margaret Held and is accurate as of the time of publication, but laws often change. That’s why it’s important to hire an attorney who keeps up with these changes. Contact us today.