What is Annulment?

Annulment is a legal procedure that declares a marriage invalid from its inception. It is based on the premise that the marriage was void in the first place.

Divorces and annulments both reach the same end result of dissolving a marriage, but there are key differences between the two processes. When a couple gets divorced, they’re still recognized as having been married by law at one point. Annulment, on the other hand, essentially erases the marriage and treats it as though it was never legitimate to begin with. Therefore, annulment tends to be more simple than divorce. Most annulment processes consist of a hearing before a judge where the spouse must prove the marriage fulfills one of the grounds for an invalid marriage.

There are two main types of annulment: civil and religious. Civil annulments are carried out by filing a petition to the court. A judge then decides whether or not to grant the request and deem the marriage null and void. A religious annulment is issued by a church or a religious body and does not terminate a legal marriage. Receiving a religious annulment does not guarantee that you will be granted a civil annulment and vice versa.

Key Takeaways

  • There is a notable difference between annulment and divorce. Annulment declares that the marriage never technically existed, while divorce ends a legitimate marriage.
  • For an annulment, one must prove that the marriage was legally invalid or defective when it took place. 
  • The grounds for an annulment depend on the individual state.

The Grounds for Annulment

Each individual state has laws of its own when it comes to marriage annulment. Nevertheless, there are certain general requirements that apply in all states. Here are a few common scenarios that could make a marriage eligible for annulment:

  1. Bigamy - the spouse was already legally married to someone else at the time of the marriage. Bigamy laws by state will vary, but bigamy is considered a criminal defense nantionwide.
  2. Fraud - a spouse who hides or misrepresents an essential fact about themselves or the marriage. This can include false representations regarding pregnancy, financial status, intentions, and citizenship.
  3. Duress - one of the parties entered the marriage due to threats or force. The threat of violence must be extreme in these cases.
  4. Mental Incapacity - either party was unable to make informed consent at the time of the marriage due to being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Mental illness is also considered grounds for annulment.
  5. Age - the spouse was not at the legal age to marry at the time of the marriage. This must be claimed in a timely manner while the individual is still underage in order to be deemed void.
  6. Incest - the spouses are close family members. In some states, “close family” is defined as siblings while other states may ban marriage between first or second cousins.
  7. Impotence - either party is physically unable or refuses to consummate the marriage and did not inform the other party about it beforehand.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, state laws and personal circumstances will determine if one fulfills the conditions for annulment. Annulments are more rare than divorce since it can be difficult to prove your marriage falls under one of the grounds for annulment. Nonetheless, some couples prefer annulments to avoid some of the legal implications of a divorce. The right divorce attorney will help you decide if annulment is right for you and will guide you throughout the process. Experienced representation is key in proving that your marriage is invalid since the process includes several evidentiary requirements. 

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