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Divorces and annulments are two ways to legally end a marriage. However, there’s a very basic difference between the two. With a legal annulment, the court declares that a marriage has been invalid from the start. This means that the marriage will be treated as though it didn’t exist. Divorces, meanwhile, recognize that a marriage was valid.
If a person annuls their marriage and later marries again, that new marriage will be considered their first marriage. A divorced person who marries again is considered to be on their second marriage.
Even though annulments invalidate a marriage’s validity rather than ending a legally-existing marriage, they’re still complicated affairs. If you want to annul your marriage, it’s a good idea to get in contact with a divorce attorney for a number of reasons.
Annulments Are Not Favored
Legal annulments are not generally favored by the public policy across states in the US. It’s widely preferred for marriages to be terminated by a divorce proceeding. Alternatively, courts prefer to deal with issues related to marriage through a legal separation proceeding. Annulments are much rarer than divorces because they’re typically permitted only under specific, rare circumstances.
There’s an untold number of cases in which people have filed to have their marriage annulled, only to have the request denied by the court. A denial of an annulment leaves only three options: a legal separation, a divorce, or staying in the marriage. In some states, separation isn’t permitted, which means the only options are divorce or staying in the marriage.
Proving Grounds for Annulment
For a marriage to be annulled, you need to prove that there are grounds for annulment. These grounds differ slightly from state to state, so it’s important to be familiar with your state’s specific laws. This is another reason why a local divorce attorney is helpful. They’ll understand all the circumstances surrounding annulment in your jurisdiction.
Though there are slight variations, the reasons tend to be similar. You need to prove that your original marriage contract was invalid for some reason.
One reason to seek an annulment is if one of the spouses was incapacitated when the wedding occurred. If a spouse was underage when the wedding was performed, or they have a mental disability that prevents them from understanding the marriage, then they do not have the ability to consent. Lack of consent to a marriage means the marriage contract is not valid.
Another reason a marriage may be annulled is if one spouse was still legally married to another person. There are rare circumstances in which a presumed-dead spouse is found to be alive. At this point, if the other partner had remarried, that marriage would be annulled automatically.
If a marriage broke the marriage laws of the state, it can also be annulled. One example would be a prohibited incestuous marriage. Marriage isn’t permitted between siblings, uncles and nieces, or aunts and nephews. Marriage between first cousins also tends to be prohibited. The state cannot recognize a marriage that doesn’t comply with marriage law. Because of this, the contract is rendered invalid.
No matter what the specific grounds for annulment are, there’s one thing in common: One or both of the involved parties was not able to enter into a marriage contract. By this logic, the marriage wasn’t valid.
Many state laws have time requirements regarding when people can file for annulments. If you and your spouse have been married for longer than the time limit, you might not be able to seek an annulment. At this point, your options become a legal separation or divorce.
Religious Versus Secular Annulment
One important thing to understand is that religious and legal annulments are different. Legal annulment is an action taken by the state, while religious annulment is an action taken by the church. A legal annulment does not mean that a marriage has been annulled in that person’s religion. Similarly, a religious annulment does not mean that a marriage has legally been terminated.
It’s important that you seek out the right type of annulment for your wishes. If you wish for your marriage to be annulled for religious reasons, you should seek annulment through the church. If you’re seeking legal annulment, you need to go through the court system.
Paperwork for annulment cases needs to be prepared precisely. It needs to explain why the marriage is invalid. It also needs to provide proof. Without proof, the annulment request will likely be denied.
Today’s society is dedicated to the do-it-yourself revolution. Unfortunately, many try to handle legal battles on their own in an effort to save money. Filing a case pro-se can be advantageous in some situations, however, when it comes to an annulment, it is to leave it in the hands of a professional. An annulment is not like a divorce or dissolution. There are stipulations that must be met for the petition to be granted. Annulling a marriage is saying that it was fraudulent or never existed.
Grounds for an Annulment
Some people believe that if their marriage is too short that they can annul it. Unfortunately, the length of the marriage has nothing to do this matter. The marriage must be considered legally “void” or “voidable.” Moreover, the requirements are very specific for the court to grant this action. They will insist on proof that the union should be invalidated. Leaving for any other reason will not work.
Reasons to Void a Marriage
There are several grounds to ask for a “void” marriage. For instance, if you were not lawfully permitted to enter into the union, the marriage would be invalid. This would occur when a person was already married and enters into a second marriage. The law considers this act “bigamy” and it is a punishable offense. If the person requesting the annulment, has a spouse that was married before they married them, they will need to file for divorce and not to for an annulment. The state doesn’t always have knowledge of these things when they issue a marriage license. They depend on honesty from the applicants.
Another reason that a marriage can be void is if you have married a close relative. These marriages are considered to be “Incest, Consanguinity and Affinity” under the law. In most states, a person cannot marry their parents, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, grandparents, step-grandparents, children, or grandchildren. These rules also apply to family members on the spouse’s side. An exception to the rule is that a man can choose to marry his son’s wife. However, a woman cannot marry her daughter’s husband, but the woman can marry her husband’s father. The laws get really confusing when it comes to relative relations. Only an attorney can ensure that you have a true basis to void the marriage.
Understanding Voidable Marriages
A voidable marriage is a bit different. These types of unions can occur when one part is drunk or mentally ill at the time of the marriage. If one spouse is not capable of sexual intercourse, the marriage can be canceled. Most states require a party to be 18 years of age unless they have parental consent. Getting married underage is considered a “voidable” marriage. If there was some sort of fraud in the marriage, the court will annul the union if it goes to the heart of the marriage.
Historically, annulments for deception were fixated on sexual relations and the capability to have children. Courts will also find fraud where one person had ulterior motives for the union. For example, marrying for immigration reasons is considered a crime and a reason for a “voidable” marriage. One party may be in love but the other party was just using them. Many misleading or deceitful acts, though, will not be grounds for an annulment. Furthermore, if you should have known about the fraudulent, or were a party to it, then the annulment will not be granted.
Legal Help is Advised
With so many stipulations and requirements, it is easy to see why it is imperative to have legal representation in this type of proceeding. Yes, you can file for an annulment yourself, but you should save yourself the trouble and get any attorney.