If a marriage does not meet the requirements of Louisiana law, the marriage may be null and void. With an annulment, it is essentially as if the marriage never existed. Divorce relief, such as alimony and child support, is only awarded if the couple actually and reasonably believed the marriage was valid.
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Depending on the circumstances of the marriage, a marriage that took place in Louisiana may be declared null and void. The state law distinguishes between a marriage that is "absolutely null" from one that is "relatively null." Certain situations create an absolutely null marriage, meaning that neither spouse is required to take additional steps to void the marriage. For a relatively null marriage, the couple has the option to either void the marriage or confirm it, and the annulment will not take effect without help from the court.
Absolutely Null Marriage
Absolutely null marriages are automatically void, meaning that legally the marriage is treated as if it never existed. The couple may proceed as if they were never married, even without petitioning the court. The circumstances that lead to an absolutely null marriage include marriages that were formed without a ceremony, marriages between same sex partners and situations where one spouse was already married. If one person stood in for one of the spouses during the ceremony, known as procuration, the marriage is null and void. The state also prohibits marriages between family members, such as brother and sister, uncle and niece, etc. Although a judicial declaration is not necessary to void absolutely null marriages, a couple may still request the declaration to have it on public record.
Relatively Null Marriages
A relatively null marriage occurs when one spouse does not freely give her consent to the marriage. For example, in an arranged marriage where one spouse was forced into the marriage and her consent was not freely given. The spouse who did not freely give consent may petition the court to have the marriage declared null. However, the spouse may also later confirm the marriage after she has the freedom and capacity to do so. For example, if the couple continues to live together after the couple is no longer being forced to do so, the marriage may be confirmed. Once a relatively null marriage is confirmed, the couple can no longer request an annulment.
Effect of Null Marriage
In some cases, the couple from a null marriage may still request the same relief as couples undergoing a traditional divorce, such as child support and property division. However, the court will rule in favor of the spouse who reasonably and in good faith believed the marriage was a valid and legal one. In cases of null marriages between people of the same sex, Louisiana law does not allow the couple to pursue any relief that is usually awarded to divorcing couples.