Guide to Divorce
An annulment, or invalidation, of a marriage, is one of the most difficult legal remedies to obtain. Unlike a divorce, which is the legal end of a marriage, an annulment of a marriage acts as if to turn back the hands of time and declare, as far as the law is concerned, that the marriage was never valid to begin with.
Common Reasons for Obtaining an Annulment
A divorce decree creates certain legal and financial obligations between the parties, such as the obligation to pay child support, spousal support,
or a portion of the martial debt. An annulment on the other hand, declares that the parties do not, and never did, have a legal relationship or obligation to each other. Because, in the eyes of the law, a valid marriage never took place, the parties have no more right to each others’ property than any two strangers on the street. In addition to avoiding ongoing financial and property obligations to the other party, many parties seek an annulment because of religious or moral objections to divorce, because one party was forced into a marriage against his or her will, or in order to be allowed to remarry within their religion.
While the idea of an annulment is an attractive one for many couples who wish to end a difficult marriage, many states only allow an annulment to be granted when a marriage is less than a year old and satisfies one of the following conditions:
- Consanguinity: In layman’s terms, “consanguinity” simply means that the parties are too closely related to be allowed to marry. In every state, marriage is prohibited between biological parents and children, brothers and sisters, nieces and uncles, and aunts and nephews. Most states also outlaw marriage between first cousins, though some allow marriage between first cousins over age 50.
Fraud or Misrepresentation: Generally, in order to obtain an annulment on the grounds of fraud or misrepresentation, the party seeking an annulment must show that a) they were deceived by the other party and b) had they known the truth, they never would have agreed to the marriage. Common types of “fraud” include homosexuality, drug or alcohol addiction, or the inability to consummate the marriage sexually.
Lack of Capacity to Consent/Lack of Consent: There are several circumstances under which a party can be said to have lacked the capacity to consent to the marriage. Parties under the legal marriageable age in each state do not have the legal capacity to consent to marry. Additionally, those who suffer a mental impairment, were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the marriage, or who were forced into the marriage by means of violence or certain kinds of threats can sometimes be found to have lacked the capacity or not to have consented to the marriage.
- Nonconsummation: The inability or refusal of one party to sexually consummate the marriage may be sufficient in and of itself to obtain an annulment.
- Bigamy: In most states, discovering that one of the parties is already legally married is grounds for obtaining an annulment. However, other states declare that, where one party is legally married to another, the marriage was never valid in the first place, thus negating the need for an annulment. In addition, some states recognize a right to an annulment when one party was recently divorced (usually a month or two prior to the wedding) and failed to disclose the recent divorce to their new spouse.
- Simulation of Consent:When one party never intended to remain faithful to the spouse.
- Raptus: In some cases, some people may be forcefully compelled to get married as in an abduction and remain in the kidnapper's power.
Though not impossible, depending on the circumstances, annulments are generally much more difficult to obtain once the parties have been married for more than a year or once children are born of the marriage.
Consequences of Annulment
|Anullment, The Church and Children
- The Roman Catholic Church will allow remarriage, so long as the original marriage has been annulled.
- Children of an annulled marriage are considered "legitimate" children of the marriage.
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Annulment of a marriage results in loss of all your rights as a married couple. Some of these include:
- Marital property rights: If you are no longer the legal owner of a property, then the property can be sold or leased without your consent. This includes real estate, pension plans, bank accounts, etc.
- Succession Rights: You will no longer be legally entitled to your former partner's estate if he or she dies.
- Spousal Support, Maintenance or Alimony: Unlike a divorce or separation, courts will not award any financial support to you. Child support may still be awarded.
- Guardian Rights: Guardian rights to a child are only granted to Fathers if they can prove that the marriage ceremony was valid, and that the child was born before or within ten months of the annulment order.