How Long After Marriage Can You Get a Civil Annulment?

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

How Long After Marriage Can You Get a Civil Annulment?

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

The amount of time you have after you get married to get a civil annulment depends on a number of factors, including what state you live in, why you are seeking an annulment and your actions post-marriage. These laws vary a great deal from state to state, so it is critical that you research your state laws to understand what is required of you.

Man and woman signing documents while a suited man watches them

Annulling a Void Marriage

While a divorce terminates a legal marriage, an annulment means that the marriage never legally existed in the first place. To qualify, your marriage must either be legally void or voidable. If your marriage does not fit into either of these categories, you may have to get a divorce instead.

A void marriage is one that does not legally exist and is against the law in most states. For example, an incestuous marriage—marrying someone closely related to you by blood—is considered void. So are bigamous or polygamous marriages, where you or your spouse were married to someone else at the time of your wedding, regardless of whether or not you were aware of it. Since these marriages were never valid at all, you can usually annul such marriages at any point in time as long as both you and your spouse are living.

Annulling a Voidable Marriage

As opposed to a void marriage, which was never legal in the first place, a voidable marriage is legal but so flawed that the law says it should not be recognized. For example, if your spouse tricked or forced you into marrying, or if you or your spouse did not understand what you were doing at the time due to mental incapacity, you may be able to convince a court that it is a voidable marriage.

Voidable marriages can be annulled in most states. However, the amount of time you have to do so after you get married can vary from a few months to a few years depending on your specific circumstances and a state's statute of limitations. The time frame usually starts the day you learn about the circumstances. In some states, a court will also take into consideration your actions after finding out your marriage is voidable when determining whether or not it qualifies for an annulment. For example, in the state of Virginia, you must file within two years and you cannot have lived together after you learned of the circumstances that made your marriage voidable. If you don't meet both requirements, then the court will not annul the marriage.

Proving that your marriage is void or voidable can take time and resources, which can eat into much of the statutory time frame you have to get an annulment. You should begin gathering the documentation required for the type you think you qualify for as soon as possible so there is ample time to prepare your case for the court. For additional information regarding the process, visit your state's website to learn more about what factors must be met, and the amount of time you have in order to begin the process.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.