The Annulment of Marriage Due to Abandonment

By Cindy Chung

Abandonment by a husband or wife often causes emotional, financial and legal stress. The abandoned spouse may want to know whether abandonment can result in an annulment of the marriage. Although abandonment generally does not serve as grounds for annulment, an annulment may be possible if the abandoned spouse can establish other grounds to invalidate the marriage. In addition, spousal abandonment or desertion may become grounds for divorce.

Legal Significance of Annulment

An annulment invalidates a marriage. It's as if the spouses had never married. To obtain an annulment, an abandoned spouse must request a court ruling that establishes the couple's marriage as invalid. The court cannot grant an annulment unless the marriage meets criteria set by state law. In contrast to annulment, a divorce legally ends a valid marriage. After divorce, former spouses become single and can remarry, but the former marriage remains on the record. Although abandonment often serves as grounds for divorce, states generally do not grant annulments due to abandonment.

Grounds for Annulment

Although each state sets its own annulment laws, states generally set similar criteria for invalidating a marriage. A couple generally has an invalid marriage if one spouse was already married or had failed to end a previous marriage properly at the time of the current marriage. Fraud or misrepresentation related to criminal history, sexually transmitted diseases, or impotence or sterility can also result in an annulment granted by a court. Other grounds for annulment often include marrying someone who's underage or mentally incompetent and; therefore, incapable of consenting to marriage, or marrying a close blood relative.

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Abandonment and Divorce

Although spousal abandonment or desertion does not generally invalidate a marriage for the purpose of annulment, abandonment may become grounds for divorce. An abandoned spouse should research her particular state's laws to learn the specific requirements for divorce based on abandonment in her jurisdiction. A state might require abandonment or desertion for a specific period of time before the abandoned spouse can file for divorce. When granted by a state court, a divorce legally ends a marriage and frees the abandoned spouse for remarriage.

Other Legal Consequences of Abandonment

Spousal abandonment may result in additional legal consequences for the spouse who abandoned the marriage. For example, some states might impose a civil penalty such as a short jail sentence or fine on a husband or wife who deserts a spouse and allows the spouse to become destitute. In other states, spousal abandonment might eliminate a marital right to financial support, such as through spousal support or maintenance, unless the abandoned spouse caused the abandonment through misconduct. In addition, a spouse who abandons a husband or wife might give up the right to receive survivor's employment benefits if the husband or wife becomes injured or dies while on a job.

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Legal Remedy for an Abandoned Spouse

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Annulment Requirements

Divorce constitutes an end to a marriage, while an annulment deems a marriage never existed. Over time, however, the lines between divorce and annulment have blurred as some states address property division issues in annulment cases even though the union legally never existed. Although a no-fault divorce may be allowed in some states, the grounds or requirements for an annulment are strictly defined and may vary from state to state.

The 12 Grounds for a Divorce in Mississippi

Mississippi recognizes 12 fault-based grounds for divorce, and if you choose to file for divorce on one of these grounds, you bear the burden of proving to the court that the ground is appropriate for your divorce. Mississippi also recognizes no-fault divorce, and many filers choose no-fault grounds since proving fault often takes longer and is more difficult.

Abandonment Laws in Alabama Regarding Marriage

Alabama state laws establish spousal rights in marriage and divorce after abandonment. In particular, Alabama law establishes an abandoned spouse's right to support and penalizes an absent spouse for desertion. Spousal abandonment is a fault ground for divorce with potential consequences in property division, alimony and child custody.

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