When a Marriage Dissolves: Answering All Your FAQs About Annulment

Unlike divorce, marriage annulment is one of those legal things that nobody is quite sure of. The conditions for annulment are very specific, and that means that if those conditions aren’t fulfilled, the case may have to be pursued as a divorce. Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot of misinformation out there about annulments and the legal conditions surrounding it.

Let’s take a look at the common questions people ask about marriage annulment as well as essential questions that people should be asking about this legal process.

An unhappy couple leans against the kitchen counters, with the woman facing away from the man with crossed arms, and the man looking down in disappointment.

What’s the Difference Between Divorce and Annulment?

A divorce is essentially a legal process that ends a pre-existing, legal and valid marriage. This means that two people who got married, following all the legal processes that it involves, have made the decision to end the marriage.

A divorce often has negotiations based on property division, custody rights, alimony, child support and more. This is necessary, because marriage in the United States offers spousal benefits and ending this legal arrangement means ensuring that a proper division is made that satisfies both parties.

An annulment is quite different, as it is essentially the process of declaring a marriage void or voidable. It differs from divorce, since divorce recognizes that a legal marriage existed, and it needs to be ended. Annulment is the process through which people can declare a marriage as invalid based on legal requirements.

Therefore, divorce and annulment are not interchangeable terms, as each has a different legal meaning and different legal pre-requisites.

How Do I Know If I Qualify for an Annulment?

Annulment laws differ from state to state, but most of the grounds of marriage annulment stay the same. There’s also often a time factor involved, as some states don’t allow marriage annulments after a period of time has passed. In that case, you would have to pursue a divorce instead of an annulment.

Qualifying for an annulment is also about being able to prove the circumstances around the marriage. Whatever possible grounds you’re basing your claim off of; your family law attorney should be able to fulfill the burden of proof depending on the circumstances of the case.

A family lawyer sits across her clients and explains the case details to them.

What’s the Difference Between Void and Voidable Marriages?

Two words that you’ll hear a lot when talking about marriage annulment is void and voidable marriages. These are the two different categories of marriages that can be annulled and all the different grounds for it fall under both of them.

Void marriages are marriages that were performed under illegal circumstances, or between parties that cannot be married. This means that the marriage is not recognized under any court of law and the marriage is automatically qualified for annulment. In the case of a void marriage, an annulment isn’t usually a drawn-out process, since the marriage was never legal, to begin with and no legal commitment can be pursued.

Voidable marriage is one that can be made null, if one of the parties requests it. So, there may be legal reasons and allowances for a marriage annulment in a voidable marriage, but the marriage will not be considered automatically void. The process for this tends to be longer as the facts of the case are sometimes more subjective.

What Are The Possible Grounds for Annulment?

So, the most frequently asked question is this one. First off, for void marriages, the grounds are fairly simple. If two people are closely related, under the age of consent for marriage, or were already married or in a civil partnership, the marriage is automatically invalid.

The law decrees that these marriages are invalid, so unless there’s an adjacent conflict going on, you don’t need to obtain official documents for it.

A family law services lawyer explains the case details to a judge in a courtroom.

However, the grounds for voidable marriage annulment are more extensive and the processes for obtaining an annulment in each scenario can look different.

  • Lack of lucid, informed consent: This stipulation covers a number of scenarios. For one, if one of the parties has a mental illness that prevents them from giving consent with complete comprehension, then the marriage may be voidable. Similarly, if one or both of the parties were extremely intoxicated (via alcohol or drugs) at the time of marriage, a lack of consent can be established, and the marriage can be annulled. Duress also qualifies as a reason for not being able to provide freely given consent for a marriage.
  • Misinformation about a party’s fertility: If one of the parties misinforms the other about their fertility, then possible grounds for annulment may exist. However, this only works if there was misinformation and deception involved. If one of the parties was found to have known about their partner’s fertility (or lack thereof), then the marriage cannot be annulled.
  • Fraudulent conditions of marriage: If a party has misrepresented major facts or conditions of their life that could adversely affect the other party, the marriage can be considered for annulment. An example of this can be that the concealment of a drug abuse problem can impact greatly the life of the other person involved. If it can be proved that the second party had no idea about something like this, a marriage and family lawyer can successfully file for an annulment.
  • Marriage was never consummated: This one is a little more complex than the others, as it can be hard to prove. One possible situation where this can be proven is if one party has a proven condition that prevents them from consummation the marriage entirely.A judge signs a legal document on a table with a gavel on it.

    What Does the Annulment Process Look Like?

    The process looks different in every state, which is why discussing the specifics of your case with a family lawyer will give you the best picture. Usually, a petition is filed by one party, and the other party is informed. They are given a choice to contest the petition, but if this doesn’t happen, a hearing takes place and a judge makes the decision based on the legality of the matter.

    For example, in the state of New York, annulment law is very specific, and there is no time limitation. That means your resident Brooklyn Family Lawyer can take a look at your case and give you a decent idea of whether your petition has a decent chance or not.

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