What Is Colorado's Annulment Law?

By Mark Vansetti

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.

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.

Annulment Deadlines

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.

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Residency Requirement

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.

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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.

Maryland's Annulment Laws

An annulment is an alternative to divorce and available in very limited circumstances. In Maryland, the grounds for annulment fall into two categories, either void or voidable. A voidable marriage is one that is valid when it takes place, but can be declared invalid by the court. A void marriage is one that is illegal at the time it takes place and can never be made valid.

Requirements for an Annulment in Massachusetts

Contrary to popular belief, you can’t annul your marriage just because it was fleeting in duration. Each state’s legislative code sets specific guidelines for what constitutes an annullable marriage. In Massachusetts, the length of the marriage is not included in these guidelines. The state is stingy about granting annulments, and spouses often find it easier to file for a no-fault divorce instead. If your marriage qualifies, you would have to prove to the court one of seven grounds for annulment. This is sometimes difficult, whereas you don’t have to prove any ground to get a no-fault divorce.

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