Will a Divorce or Annulment Erase the Marriage Record?
The short answer is no: a divorce or annulment will not erase the paper trail of a legal marriage because these legal proceedings are a part of the public, permanent record.
How to End a Marriage
To leave a marriage, the two legal pathways available are annulment and divorce. Largely, the difference between the two lies in the distinction that divorce marks the legal end to a lawful marriage, whereas an annulment is a legal dissolution of a marriage that has been found unenforceable. The “validity” of the marriage is being the key distinguishing feature. Divorce and annulment criteria vary from state to state, however, the result of each legal action, divorce or annulment, is that both parties become legally single once more.
Annulment and Divorce
Divorce is significantly more common, where spouses uncouple from a relationship where both parties acknowledge having been legally married. Annulment implies that one or both members of the alleged union find something at issue with its legal grounds. Divorce generally requires a period of separation, but may not require any further evidence, as in a “no-fault” divorce. Annulment often requires evidence of force or deceit or may be sought if the marriage did not meet the requirements of the law in the first place, such as in cases of incest or bigamy. Other legal grounds for annulment include the legal incompetence of one or both spouses; the involvement of a juvenile in the alleged marriage; and spousal impotence. Annulment is rare due to these conditional requirements, and–contrary to popular belief–brevity of marriage does make it eligible for annulment.
Divorce and annulment can be legally arduous, expensive, and time consuming. Both are initiated when one or both individuals in a married couple officially make a request to the court. Both are far simpler and significantly less expensive when both spouses are in mutual agreement about dissolving the union and have few differences about how to proceed.
Post-divorce, former marriage partners may still have ongoing responsibilities to each other, such as spousal support/alimony or child support. Post-annulment, the marriage is effectively erased (though, again, the public record will still reflect all legal action, from the procurement of the marriage license to the signed Decree of Annulment).
Although it is impossible to erase the marriage record in divorce, a Family Law filing may be made invisible in the public record if it is sealed. In the case of a sealed record, individuals may sometimes assume the legal right to deny having anything to do with the related legal proceedings. Note that this applies only to legal divorce or annulment, and not to permissions granted by religious guidelines or clergy.