How to Be Eligible for an Annulment

By Valerie Stevens

While a divorce terminates a legal marriage, an annulment means that the marriage never existed legally. To qualify for an annulment, a marriage must be legally void or voidable. Void means that it is not valid, while voidable means that a court can declare it to be invalid if it is challenged. To be eligible for an annulment you must be able to prove one of the specific grounds to establish that your marriage is void or voidable. Otherwise, eligibility for an annulment is simple. However, many states require strict proof to declare an annulment.

Step 1

Meet one of the legal grounds for annulment. Although the grounds vary from state to state, several reasons for annulment are common to all states. If a spouse did not have the legal capacity or the legal intent to enter into the marriage, an annulment is possible. Some common reasons that a spouse does not have the legal capacity to marry include a preexisting marriage, mental incapacity or being underage. Another reason is consanguinity, or a marriage between close relatives, which is illegal.

Step 2

Determine if you were married without the proper intent, as an alternative to lacking the capacity to marry. A person who marries under fraudulent circumstances or under duress lacks the proper intent to enter into a marriage. For example, a person with false identity commits fraud if he marries someone who has no knowledge of his true identity. Another example is a sham marriage, in which the parties marry to deceive a government or corporate entity. A marriage that has not been consummated by physical relations can be annulled in some states.

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Step 3

Be the innocent spouse in your marriage in order to file for an annulment. In some states and under certain circumstances, the wrongdoer in a marriage cannot be the plaintiff in a lawsuit for annulment. For example, if a man forced you to marry him under duress, he cannot file for annulment himself. Or, if you were tricked into marrying someone but remained married after you learned the truth, you cannot file for an annulment in many states because your actions retroactively approved the marriage agreement.

Step 4

Meet the residency requirements for the county and state where you seek an annulment. Usually, you or your spouse must have lived in the county for at least 90 days prior to filing for an annulment. Many states require a much longer period of residency. A lawyer or other officer of the court can tell you if you meet the residency requirements.

Step 5

Meet your state's statute of limitations for annulment. For example, you might have to file within 90 days of the wedding ceremony, depending on the reason you are filing. You can find out if your state requires you to file within a certain time frame by consulting a lawyer, or you can look up this information in your state’s code of laws. You can usually find the state code online by conducting an Internet search or in a public library.

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

References

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What Is the Time Limit for Getting an Annulment in the State of Nevada?

Nevada allows couples to annul a marriage in a limited number of cases. Because of the wide availability of divorce, state law strictly limits the grounds for which an annulment may be sought. In addition, while there is typically no time limit for bringing the action, an exception applies to marriages based on age of consent, which must be brought within one year after the minor child reaches 18.

How to File for an Annulment of Marriage in CA

If you're seeking an annulment, California courts require that you follow specific procedures. A court grants an annulment for marriages that are not legally valid. California's statutes set forth who may qualify for an annulment, meaning you must have appropriate legal grounds upon which to file. If you qualify, there are court-provided forms that you must fill out and serve to the respondent -- the person from whom you're seeking the annulment. Once your marriage is annulled, it's as though you were never married. In other words, the entire marriage is nullified, just as if it never occurred.

Basis for Annulment

Couples often mistakenly assume that an annulment is an easier, cheaper and quicker alternative to a divorce, but in fact, obtaining an annulment is generally more difficult. State laws allow annulment in only limited circumstances. Couples cannot get an annulment unless their situation fits one of their state's legal grounds, or bases, for annulment. The process and bases for annulment varies by state, but annulment generally is not based on the length of time the couple has been married.

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