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The Difference Between a Divorce and an Annulment in Delaware

The family law in Delaware outlines the statutory procedures for the solemnization and termination of marriage contracts. The latter involves issuing a decree of divorce or annulment following the adjudication of a petition to the Delaware judiciary. Records of these court cases are available to interested persons unless the court or a statute says otherwise.

What is a Delaware Divorce Decree?

A divorce decree is an order of dissolution of marriage issued by a court of competent jurisdiction in the state. The divorce decree effectively frees the divorcees from the bonds of matrimony and restores the parties to the legal status, rights, capacities, and incapacities of unmarried persons (Delaware Divorce and Annulment Act)..

The records contained in documents related to family court include both marriage and divorce records. Both types of records contain information that is considered very personal to the parties involved, and it is recommended that those parties maintain these records with care to make changes in the future. The personal nature of these records results in both being considerably more difficult to find and obtain when compared to other types of public records. In many cases, these records are not available through either government sources or third party public record websites.

What is an Annulment in Delaware?

An annulment is a judicial order that invalidates a marriage contract retroactively. Ergo, the marriage was null and void from the date of solemnization regardless of its course (Delaware Divorce and Annulment Act). Per Del. Laws. § 13–1 and Del. Laws. 13 § 1506 the marriages that are null and void include the following:

  • Marriage between relatives;
  • A marriage where either party is on probation or parole from a criminal justice institution;
  • A marriage where the divorce of either party is not final or absolute;
  • A marriage recognized outside the state by prohibited by Delaware laws;
  • Where either spouse was mentally incapable or under substance influence at the time of solemnization;
  • Marriage of underage persons;
  • Marriage by fraud or fraudulent act of misrepresentation;
  • Marriage solemnized due to jest or dare; and,
  • Where a party concealed physical incapacity to consummate the marriage from the other party

Court records created and filed during an annulment or a divorce are generally available to public requesters. However, per a request from the divorcees, and if the court deems the documents to be potentially injurious to the parties involved, the court will order the sequestration of the document from unauthorized access.

Annulment vs. Divorce in Delaware

Divorce and annulment are the two legal ways to remove the bonds of matrimony from living spouses in Delaware. Nevertheless, the actions have different legal consequences following a declaration in a court of competent jurisdiction. For instance, a marriage remains valid until the court issues a decree of final divorce, but annulment means that the marriage was invalid from the onset. Furthermore, petitioners may initiate a divorce action once the parties meet requirements, but the law sets a statute of limitation on annulments (Del. Laws. 13 § 1506(b)). Generally, the petitioner must initiate an annulment as fast as 90 days and up to 1 year after knowledge of the marital voidability.

Is an Annulment Cheaper Than Divorce in Delaware?

No, getting an annulment is generally more expensive than getting an uncontested divorce in Delaware. The court fees, attorney fees, and other professional fees, e.g., hiring a private investigator to find witnesses and finding admissible medico-legal evidence. Even where the petitioner is self-represented, many of the costs are unavoidable and make annulment comparably more expensive than an uncontested divorce.

What is an Uncontested Divorce in Delaware?

An uncontested divorce is a way to eliminate the need to investigate marital misconduct before the legal dissolution. It may also refer to a divorce where the respondent does not respond to the petition within 20 days of receiving the divorce papers.

The process demands the maximum participation and cooperation of both spouses. If there are minors involved, the divorce agreement must first provide for the physical, mental, moral, and emotional wellbeing of the children during and after the divorce. Then, the agreement must describe the disposition of marital assets and liabilities during and after the divorce.

Summarily, uncontested divorce encourages the amicable settlement of disputes during a divorce proceeding. Also, it mitigates the rancorous aftermath that is common to divorce trials, especially those involving children.

Where to Get an Uncontested Divorce Form in Delaware?

Forms relevant in uncontested divorce proceedings are available at the office of the clerk of family court. Alternatively, the petitioner and respondent may find the relevant divorce forms on the divorce packet online. Note that the court can only provide official instructions regarding how to complete the divorce forms. Also, court staff cannot provide legal advice. Intending divorcees must also read the official instructions for divorce in Delaware. However, proceeding with the divorce filing requires that either spouse meets the Delaware residency requirement of six (6) months (Del. Laws. 13 § 1504).

Divorce court records are available for public perusal at the end of the proceedings. Interested requesters may visit the family court or use Court Connect to find the records of interest. Either way, note that unauthorized persons do not have online or physical access to divorce documents that contain confidential information regarding the divorcees or minors.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching for records simpler, as geographic locations do not limit their activities. Thus, the search engines on third-party sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or persons involved in the case. These include information such as the city, county, or state of residence or accusation.

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not government-sponsored. Consequently, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How Do I Get a Copy of my Divorce Decree in Delaware?

Copies of divorce decrees are available at the office of the clerk of family court. In-person requests must be during office hours, and the requester must provide enough information to assist the administrative staff in a record search. Requesters may also mail the request to the address of the court provided that the written request contains payment for associated fees and government-issued photo I. D. Typically, the details needed to retrieve a divorce decree from the court archives include the case number, the names of divorcees, and the date of decree (see the record access policy)..

Divorce and marriage records may be available through government sources and organizations, though their availability is not guaranteed. Similarly, their availability through third-party websites and companies is not guaranteed, as these organizations are not government-sponsored, and record availability may vary. Finally, marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information they contain and are often sealed. Bearing these factors in mind, record availability for these types of records is not guaranteed.

How Do I Get a Delaware Divorce Decree Online?

At present, the judiciary does not process online service requests for copies of divorce decrees. Consequently, the concerned requester must visit the family court to get the divorce decree.

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