The Post-Divorce-Parenting Glossary

Divorced-Parenting Term

Annulment of Marriage


   What is an annulment of a marriage?

   An annulment of marriage legally means that it never existed.  It is said to have never been legally binding due to unsound mind, bigamy, incest, fraud, being too young to legally consent, physical incapacity, or force. The judgment to dissolve the marriage through annulment can affect how property is divided, legal costs, and support toward a spouse.


   What are the three ways a marriage may be terminated?

   Separation, divorce, and annulment are the three formal ways to terminate marriage in the United States. In the past,separation was the primary way to end marriage, but today marriages that end by separation alone, in the US, are rare.  One of the reasons for this shift is the spread of no-fault divorces, which allow for people to file for divorce without having to prove the other parent was at fault for the marriage dissolving.

   At fault divorces, by contrast, required that the person filing divorce ws justified in doing so.


   What are some reasons that a marriage annulment may be granted?

   An annulment states that a marriage was legally invalid from the beginning. For a marriage to be valid both parties must enter into the decision with sound intentions, a reasonable awareness or understanding of marriage, and their capability to marry.  Once a marriage has been annulled the parties involved are legally able to remarry. When children are in the picture the court determines custody arrangements and how child support is to be paid. It would be advisable to consult a family law attorney as annulment laws differ by state.
   Basic reasons for annulment that are consistent from state to state are: lack of capacity, and fraud at the time of marriage. Annulment based on lack of capacity involves the following:

  •        Insanity
  •        Mental incapacity
  •        An underage spouse
  •        Being under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of marriage
  •        Being unable to consummate the marriage
  •        Bigamy
  •        Too close of relations to be lawful

   The other main reason a marriage is often annulled is when entered in a fraudulent or deceitful manner. The following are examples of fraud making annulment valid:

  •        One person was already married to another living person
  •        One party never intended on getting married
  •        One person used force to get married by threat or duress
  •        The marriage was an attempt to deceive the other person
  •        The marriage was done to gain citizenship status
  •        The woman was pregnant with another man’s child and claimed it was the husband’s
  •        One party did not disclose having a chemical dependency or other problem


   How much time after a marriage does a person have to seek an annulment?

   The laws that apply to marriage differ from the laws for annulment which are established by each state. There are different time limitations as to when an annulment can be pursued depending on the reasons for annulment. The time for annulment can range from needing to occur within 60 days of marriage in some instances, in other situations within a year, and still other cases, annulment can actually occur after several years of marriage. One who is interested in understanding more about annulment and how it might relate to their situation might consult an experienced family law attorney.


   How does annulment affect child custody cases?

   An annulment treats the marriage as if it never happened, but if children are involved, the child custody case would still be subject to the best interest doctrine, similar to a separation.  The family court would determine who would get custody of the children and how much child support would be owed, if any.

Understanding annulment
How annulment is granted by a family court.

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