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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Grounds for Annulment
Under Colorado law, a person seeking an annulment must prove one of several grounds to the court's satisfaction: proof that one of the spouses lacked the mental capacity to be married; one spouse was not old enough to legally marry in Colorado; one of the spouses is impotent and the other did not know that prior to marriage; the marriage occurred because one spouse was under duress or as a jest, a dare or a misrepresentation; or the marriage was void due to bigamy, polygamy, incest or any other reason that would make it illegal.
Depending on which legal ground a person uses to obtain an annulment, a time frame or deadline may apply. If the annulment is sought due to lack of mental capacity, or if the marriage was the product of fraud, duress, jest or a dare, the person must initiate the annulment within six months of the marriage. If one spouse is found to be impotent, the annulment must be initiated within 12 months. For marriages where one spouse was under the legal age, the deadline is 24 months after the marriage. When a marriage is void due to bigamy, polygamy or incest, either spouse may seek an annulment at anytime. While these deadlines apply to obtaining an annulment, the length of the marriage prior to the initiation of the legal process is irrelevant.
If the parties were married in Colorado, there is no residency requirement before a party can seek an annulment; the parties could be living anywhere and seek an annulment of the marriage in Colorado. If the marriage occurred outside of Colorado, at least one of the parties must have resided in the state for 30 days before the annulment can be initiated.
End of Marriage Issues
An annulment is not technically the same as a divorce, but many areas of Colorado family law apply to both methods of ending a marriage. As a result, contested annulments may take as long to obtain as a typical divorce. Laws related to division of marital property, child support and alimony are applicable to an annulment in the same manner as a divorce. Children born during the marriage and before the annulment was finalized are considered legitimate under Colorado law. Colorado is a no-fault divorce state, so in many situations it may be easier to obtain a divorce than an annulment even though an annulment may be preferred for religious or other reasons.