What Is A Marriage Annulment?

What Is A Marriage Annulment?

by Jan 25, 2017Family Law

We’ve all seen movies and TV shows where a couple that has just met has a few too many drinks, takes a spontaneous trip to Vegas, and gets married. When they wake up the next morning and realize what’s happened, they go and get an annulment. But what, exactly, is a marriage annulment? And how is it different from a divorce?

What Is A Marriage Annulment?

While an annulment and a divorce both end a marriage, the difference is that with an annulment, it’s as if the marriage never actually happened. From a legal perspective, this means spouses who opt for annulment are then legally “single” and not “divorced”.

Put another way, a marriage annulment is like hitting the “Undo” button on a computer (mostly) — it undoes the marriage and both parties walk away as if the whole thing never happened in the first place.

Reasons For A Marriage Annulment

The most common reason for getting an annulment is actually religion, not impaired decision making after too many drinks (although that does occasionally happen in real life).

The Roman Catholic Church doesn’t sanction divorce or subsequent remarriage, but does allow someone whose first marriage was annulled to remarry in the church. But even if you get a religious annulment, in order to end your marital relationship in the eyes of the state you must obtain a civil annulment through the courts.

While most marriage annulments take place a short time after the marriage occurs, there are some cases where a couple will seek an annulment after many years of marriage. In those rare cases, the court considers all of the same issues as it would for a divorce, divides property, and makes decisions about alimony and child custody.

Marriage Annulment Requirements

A civil annulment, in most states, requires at least one of the following conditions to have occurred:

  • Fraud or misrepresentation: One spouse lied about something that was important to the other in getting married, like the ability to have children.
  • No consummation of the marriage: One spouse is physically unable to have sexual intercourse, and the other spouse didn’t know it when they got married.
  • Incest, bigamy, or underage party: Either the spouses are related by blood so that their marriage is illegal under the laws of the state where they married, or one of them is married to someone else, or one of them is under the age of consent and didn’t receive a parent’s approval.
  • Unsound mind: One or both of the spouses was impaired by alcohol or drugs at the time of the wedding or didn’t have the mental capacity to understand what was happening.
  • Force: One of the parties was forced into getting married.

If you and your spouse are considering an annulment, it’s important to consult a reputable divorce and family law attorney. Unlike the movies, a couple can’t just get a marriage annulment because they decided they made a mistake. A couple has to prove one of the reasons mentioned above, and hiring a lawyer to walk you through the process will make your marriage annulment much easier.


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