What Does Contesting an Annulment Mean?

By Terry Masters

An annulment is one way to end a marriage or a civil union. There is sometimes a misconception that an annulment is a "quickie divorce" and anyone has a right to request one; however, annulments are only available under certain narrow circumstances -- and the other party always has the right to contest the proceeding.

Definition

An annulment is a legal proceeding to have a state court declare that a marriage or civil union never existed. It retroactively voids the proceeding that purported to establish a legal union. Each state has its own laws that establish the grounds for an annulment. The person petitioning the court for an annulment must state facts that support one of those grounds. Some of the most common grounds for an annulment are bigamy, insanity, fraud, duress, incapacity and inability to have sexual relations.

Legal Process

If one of the parties files an answer with the court to the other party's petition for annulment, the proceeding is contested. Contesting the annulment means that one party challenges the material representations made by the other party in the petition.

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Effect

In most states, filing an answer to contest a petition for annulment will cause the court to automatically schedule the case for a hearing. In these states, a contested annulment cannot be decided based on the written documents alone. Therefore, the purpose of the hearing is to decide if valid grounds for an annulment exist and the burden is on the person seeking the annulment to prove that they do.

Consequences

Contesting an annulment does not mean that you cannot apply for a divorce. Rather, an annulment will extinguish any rights either party has to marital distribution of property, alimony or other benefits of marriage or a civil union. Some people object to the idea of a marriage or union being wiped away as if it never existed and prefer divorce over annulment. If the court finds in favor of the party contesting the annulment, the parties are deemed to have a legal marriage or civil union and the only way to terminate it is through a divorce proceeding.

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What Is the Law for Annulments in the State of Oregon?

References

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Louisiana Annulment Statute

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.

How to File for an Annulment in Maryland

You can only file for annulment in Maryland if your marriage possesses certain defects. For example, if your spouse lied to you about being able to conceive children, if one or both of you were underage when you married, or if you were extremely intoxicated during the marriage ceremony, these issues would qualify as grounds for annulment. If your marriage involved bigamy or incest, filing for annulment may not even be necessary. You can simply walk away because such marriages are never legally valid in Maryland to begin with.

What Is the Process for an Annulment in the State of New Hampshire?

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

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