The process of filing for an annulment in New Hampshire is similar to the process of filing for divorce. You'll need to petition a county court for an annulment, state the grounds for the annulment, and prove that your particular circumstances qualify for an annulment under state law. If you are granted the annulment, the marriage is treated as legally invalid; in other words, as if it never existed. Divorce, on the other hand, terminates a legally valid marriage once the divorce decree is signed by the judge
Annulment vs. Divorce
Just as in a divorce proceeding, you must file the appropriate dissolution paperwork with the Superior Court in your county and serve notice on the party from whom you're seeking an annulment. It is much harder to obtain an annulment than a divorce, especially a no-fault divorce -- the burden of proof is more stringent. Still, there are reasons why you might prefer an annulment. If you married outside your faith, an annulment might restore you to the good graces of your church. If you were tricked into marriage due to fraud or forced to marry under duress, you might want to remove all legal traces of the union. You also might feel that a divorce still carries a stigma, even though roughly half of all new marriages in America end in divorce, as of 2013.
A void marriage is one that was invalid at its inception. For example, if spouses-to-be are close relatives or one of the parties was underage at the time of the ceremony, the union was void from the start. Bigamy is another example of when a marriage is considered void -- you can only have one spouse at a time. You actually don't have to ask a court for an annulment in the case of a void marriage, since it never was legally valid. However, if there is doubt over the validity of a marriage that might be void, a party can ask for a judicial determination under Section 458 of New Hampshire's Revised Statutes.
Sometimes, otherwise legitimate marriages become voidable; thus, qualify for an annulment. The insanity of one party at the time of the wedding can render a marriage voidable and qualify for an annulment. Fraud by one spouse is also grounds for an annulment, if it goes to the heart of the marriage. For example, fraudulently getting someone to marry you -- for instance, agreeing to marry without any intention to consummate the marriage or live as a married couple -- results in a voidable marriage eligible for annulment.
Until New Hampshire approved same-sex marriage in 2009, it was illegal in the state and any such ceremonies were void and carried no legal effect. Since that time, same-sex marriages and male-female marriages are governed by the same laws. If you are in a same-sex marriage and want an annulment, you must petition the court using the same grounds that a same-sex couple would use, such as a fraudulent inducement to marry, to warrant an annulment.
References & Resources
- Divorce Magazine: New Hampshire Divorce Law: Grounds for Divorce
- Laws & Demers: Divorce and Family Matters
- Aspen Publishers: Family Law; Robert E. Oliphant, Nancy Ver Steegh
- New Hamphsire Judicial Branch: Petition to Annul Marriage
- New Hampshire General Court: New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated, Section 458:2: Petitions
- New York Times: New Hampshire Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage
- Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images