Basis for Annulment

By Heather Frances J.D.

Couples often mistakenly assume that an annulment is an easier, cheaper and quicker alternative to a divorce, but in fact, obtaining an annulment is generally more difficult. State laws allow annulment in only limited circumstances. Couples cannot get an annulment unless their situation fits one of their state's legal grounds, or bases, for annulment. The process and bases for annulment varies by state, but annulment generally is not based on the length of time the couple has been married.

Couples often mistakenly assume that an annulment is an easier, cheaper and quicker alternative to a divorce, but in fact, obtaining an annulment is generally more difficult. State laws allow annulment in only limited circumstances. Couples cannot get an annulment unless their situation fits one of their state's legal grounds, or bases, for annulment. The process and bases for annulment varies by state, but annulment generally is not based on the length of time the couple has been married.

Annulment Vs. Divorce

An annulment is not really an alternative to divorce. Unlike divorce, an annulment legally erases the marriage because it was never valid. When couples divorce, they break the bonds of a valid marriage; when couples get an annulment, the court rules that their marriage was never legal to begin with. Thus, an annulment may not grant couples the same rights and obligations that a divorcing couple has. For example, a divorce court can divide access to the couple's children and split their property and debts, but a couple that gets an annulment does not have the same ability to have their property and child custody divided.

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Age and Incest

Each state establishes the legal age at which a teenager can marry, with or without parental consent, and a person who marries before this age may later be able to annul the marriage. For example, California allows someone who married or entered into a domestic partnership while under 18 to obtain an annulment as long as he files before he reaches the age of 22. Couples can also file for annulment if they discover their marriage was incestuous, meaning they are too closely related to marry under their state's laws. Like other grounds for annulment, age and incest grounds are based on the idea that the marriage was not legal to begin with.

Fraud and Force

Marriages procured by fraud or force are eligible for annulment. Fraud is trickery that entices a person to marry who would not have married had she known the truth, such as when one spouse lies to the other about his criminal history or sexually transmitted diseases. Courts typically view marriage as a type of contract, so both spouses must enter the marriage of their own free will or the contract is not valid. Generally, the annulment request can only be filed by the victim of the fraud or force rather than the perpetrator.

Incapacity of Spouse

Annulments are sometimes granted if either spouse is mentally or physically incapable of performing his marriage duties. For example, a spouse could file for an annulment if the other spouse is unable to consummate the marriage because of impotence, even if the impotent spouse did not know about his impotence at the time of the marriage. Spouses can also file for annulment if one has a significant mental illness, but again, the specific laws vary among states.

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Reasons an Annulment Will Be Approved

References

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What Is the Law for Annulments in the State of Oregon?

If you are contemplating an annulment of your marriage, you should know that grounds for an annulment are limited in Oregon. Annulments are allowed only if the parties are incapable of entering into a marriage contract due to an insufficiency of legal age or understanding, or if the consent of either party was the result of fraud or force. You must be 18 — or 17 with parental consent — to legally marry in Oregon.

Conditions for Marriage Annulment in North Carolina

North Carolina, like most states, allows parties to obtain an annulment rather than a divorce. Qualifying for an annulment isn't easy, however. Certain conditions must be met. If a court finds that grounds for annulment are present, it will grant the request. Unlike a divorce decree, which ends a marriage that legally exists, an order of annulment treats the marriage as though it never existed at all.

What Is Colorado's Annulment Law?

In Colorado, a Declaration of Invalidity of Marriage, commonly known as an annulment, terminates a marriage. An annulment is different from a divorce because, in the eyes of the law, a marriage never existed after obtaining an annulment. On the other hand, when a divorce ends a marriage, the marriage is recognized under the law to have existed prior to the divorce. Colorado statutes permit annulments under limited circumstances; the process for obtaining an annulment in the state is different from obtaining a divorce decree.

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