Couples sometimes marry under unlawful or questionable circumstances that could later lead to the need for an annulment. Also, some spouses might prefer annulment over divorce for personal or religious reasons. To obtain an annulment in Utah, spouses must meet the legal standard set by the state's annulment laws. If a couple cannot qualify for an annulment in Utah, they have the option of bringing divorce proceedings.
The process of divorce in Utah is similar to that of annulment, but the two options are distinct types of court proceedings. An annulment cancels the existence of a marriage as if the spouses had never married in the first place, while a divorce ends an existing marriage. Although annulment and divorce are separate types of court cases, both may result in similar legal consequences — they allow the spouses to become single, unmarried persons again. Utah judges can enter court orders for property division, alimony, child custody and visitation, child support and other legal issues as part of an annulment proceeding, just as the judge might do in a divorce case.
Utah courts accept two grounds for obtaining an annulment: grounds set by the state's statutes and grounds established by common-law principles. The statutory grounds for annulment include: bigamy, i.e. one spouse was already married to another person; underage marriage, i.e. one spouse was not yet 18 years of age and a parent did not provide consent or, if marriage occurred after May 3, 1999, one spouse was not yet 16 years of age; same-sex marriage; and marriage between close blood relatives such as siblings.
In addition to the grounds established by statute, the Utah courts recognize other reasons for granting an annulment. A state court can grant an annulment if one of the spouses proves misrepresentation or dishonesty regarding an issue related to marriage. For example, a spouse may have lied about being single or being able to have children. A spouse may also request an annulment if the other spouse is unwilling to consummate the marriage through sexual relations.
Utah Annulment Procedures
The process to file for annulment in Utah is similar to the process required for a divorce. But unlike a divorce, an annulment does not include a residency period that requires the petitioner to have lived in Utah for a specific period of time. The person requesting the annulment must file the initial complaint, also known as the petition, with the local domestic relations court. The complaint may include the petitioner's preferences regarding legal issues such as property division, child custody, visitation, and financial support through alimony or child support. The other spouse has an opportunity to file response papers. The annulment does not take effect until the court issues a final order granting the petition.