I receive many questions from clients asking if an annulment of their marriage is how they should proceed.
Annulments are rare these days but are still available if you meet specific “grounds.” The idea behind an annulment is that the marriage was never really legally valid as opposed to a divorce where you are asking a court to terminate a “valid” marriage. The logical and legal question becomes…….what makes it valid or invalid?
Courts will order that a marriage be annulled if one of the following situations can be established:
- Mental Illness, Insanity or Retardation: If a person is married while mentally ill, insane or so mentally retarded that he or she could not knowingly and willingly consent to marriage, then the marriage may be annulled. Here, annulment would be granted on the theory that marriage is a consensual relationship, and most mentally ill, insane, or retarded people are considered incapable of giving legal consent.Temporary Insanity: If temporary or periodic insanity is claimed, the affected person’s condition at the time of marriage governs whether or not his or her possessed the legal capacity to marry. A marriage will not be annulled if it was entered into during a “lucid” interval between episodes of temporary insanity.
- Fraud: If one of the parties did not tell the truth, or misrepresented information in order to induce the other party to enter into the marriage, then the marriage may be annulled because of fraud.
- Lack of Consent or Duress: If a person is compelled to marry another under a threat of violence that would overcome the mind and will of a person of ordinary mental strength, the marriage may be annulled on the theory that marriage is a consensual relationship, and that compulsion under threat is inconsistent with consent. Actual threats of serious violence are required.
- Intoxication: If either spouse was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the marriage, or if it can be shown that there was such intoxication at the marriage ceremony that either spouse was incapable of knowing the nature of the marriage contract and its consequences, annulment will be granted.
- Inability to consummate the marriage (or “impotency”): To obtain an annulment for impotency, the person seeking annulment must prove that the other spouse was permanently and incurably impotent when the marriage was entered into, and that the person seeking annulment did not discover the fact until after the marriage.
- Lack of parental consent for an underage marriage: Most states have age requirements for marriage. Generally, persons under the age of 18 must have parental consent to marry. If an underage person managed to obtain a marriage license without court or parental approval, the marriage would be subject to annulment.
- One of the people is already married (bigamy): A marriage is subject to annulment when it is entered into before the dissolution of an earlier marriage of one of the parties becomes final.
- Incestuous marriage: http://www.leg.state.fl.us/STATUTES/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0700-0799/0741/Sections/0741.21.html All states prohibit marriages between parents and children — including grandparents and grandchildren of every degree; between brothers and sisters of the half as well as the whole blood; and between uncles and nieces, aunts and nephews, and first cousins.
- Mock Marriages: A marriage entered into with no intention that it be binding is considered a mock marriage. If the couple agrees to marry to accomplish a specific objective, such as legitimizing a child, the majority of courts will regard the marriage as valid and will not grant an annulment.
Unless you fall under one of the above situations the divorce option is the only way you can proceed to end the marriage. If you and your spouse are in agreement to end the marriage you would have an uncontested divorce. Quite often this process can be much faster and less expensive than the annulment process itself.