Unlike divorce, an annulment is retroactive. This means that an annulled marriage is considered to be invalid and void from the beginning, almost as if it had never taken place. In the eyes of the law, the marriage never occurred, which can be important for a number of reasons. However, not all marriages can be annulled. Annulment is a legal protection set up for those who truly should not have been married for one reason or another, therefore annulment is not available as an escape route for a normal marriage. In order to obtain an annulment, you need to meet certain criteria that vary from state to state. In order to determine whether an annulment is available to you and whether it would be advantageous to you, it is usually in your best interest to consult with a qualified annulment legal services attorney.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops provides some helpful information regarding annulment. Generally speaking, an annulment may be available if the validity of the marriage can be called into question by mental, physical, or legal considerations.
- Annulment Mental Considerations: There are a number of factors that can affect a person’s mental state and therefore their ability to consent to a marriage. A marriage may be annulled if one party was mentally incompetent at the time of the marriage. If one party was under the influence of drugs or alcohol when the marriage took place, the marriage may be annulled. A marriage can be annulled if one party was coerced/forced into marriage, as it would not have been of one party’s own free will. If a person entered into a marriage as a joke or on a dare, without the intention to truly be bound to it, the marriage may be annulled. Finally, if a person entered into a marriage because of a belief and reliance on untrue statements by the other person, the marriage may be annulled.
- Annulment Physical Considerations: Incurable impotence, so that intercourse cannot occur and the marriage cannot be consummated, can be grounds for an annulment. However, the other party must not have known prior to the marriage of the impotence of their spouse.
- Annulment Legal Considerations: There are several factors that can make it illegal to marry and can therefore be a basis for annulment. Some states may have other legal remedies, besides an annulment, in place for a person who entered unknowingly into an illegal marriage. If one party was still married at the time of the wedding, the marriage may be annulled. If one party was underage and did not have the required parental or court consent for marrying, the marriage may be annulled. However, if the underage spouse achieves adult age and is still married, there is the possibility that an annulment after that point will not be allowed. A marriage can usually be annulled if it is an incestuous one; most states consider blood marriages closer to second cousins to be incestuous.
Advantages and Disadvantages of an Annulment
The principle advantage of an annulment is that the marriage is treated as having never existed. This could be attractive for religious and/or financial reasons. The effects of a divorce can be long lasting and far-reaching, which is generally not the case with an annulment. An annulment also does not usually include the dividing up of property or the determination of support payments.
There are some disadvantages to getting an annulment. In many states there are no-fault divorces and you can get a divorce without having to provide any proof. With annulment, you are required to state the grounds for the annulment and provide proof. Also, unlike divorce, there may be time constraints as to when an annulment is allowed. We at Request Legal Services can put you in touch with an attorney who can explain these details to you. You should also ask your attorney about the complexity of getting an annulment and find out whether it would be easier or more difficult than getting a divorce.