Some spouses prefer annulment over divorce because of their religious beliefs or other personal reasons. When a couple would like to annul a marriage rather than seek a divorce, the spouses must meet the criteria set by law. Because Louisiana state laws cover annulment cases in New Orleans, a spouse seeking to annul a marriage in the parish of Orleans should know the requirements set by the state. Annulment may affect each spouse's financial rights.
Annulment Procedures in New Orleans
An annulment, known as a declaration of nullity in Louisiana, voids a marriage as if the spouses had never married. The state district courts preside over all cases related to family law and marital rights, including annulment actions. The Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans handles actions for annulment filed by New Orleans residents.
Absolutely Null Marriages
Louisiana state laws establish two types of marriages for the purpose of annulment: absolutely null marriages and relatively null marriages. State law defines an absolutely null marriage as one between incestuous familial relatives or between individuals of the same sex. In addition, a marriage is absolutely null if the couple did not participate in a marriage ceremony recognized by the state or if one party was already married to someone else. An absolutely null marriage does not require a declaration of nullity from a New Orleans court to void the marriage and confirm each spouse's status as a single person. However, the spouses may need to open an annulment case before the Orleans Parish Civil District Court can assist with related legal issues, such as financial rights or child custody.
Relatively Null Marriages
The Orleans Parish Civil District Court may make a declaration of nullity for a relatively null marriage if a spouse asks the court to do so. Louisiana state laws define relatively null marriages as those marriages in which at least one spouse did not freely consent to marry the other. For example, a spouse may have consented to the marriage because of fraud or duress. However, if a spouse learns of a reason for annulment and continues to participate in the marriage, that spouse may lose the right to an action for annulment. For instance, spouses may lose the right to an annulment by continuing to live together as husband and wife or by engaging in marital relations after learning about grounds for an annulment; these acts show the court the spouse would like to continue in the marriage. Although Louisiana laws explain how a spouse can lose the right to annul a relatively null marriage, they do not set a time frame -- therefore, whether a spouse can keep the right to annulment may depend on the state district court's interpretation of the law in each case.
Financial Rights and Annulment
Louisiana follows community property principles -- accordingly, when a marriage ends, spouses often have the right to one-half of the marital assets gained during marriage as well as the right to payment of marital debts. After annulment, a former spouse might be able to obtain reimbursement for payments made toward marital debts before annulment. In addition, a spouse may request community property rights and other financial rights from the New Orleans court issuing the declaration of nullity.