Requirements for an Annulment in Massachusetts

By Beverly Bird

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.

Void Marriages

To receive an annulment in Massachusetts, your marriage must be either void or voidable. A void marriage is one that could not have existed in the first place, because it was against the law from its inception. Massachusetts has three void marriage grounds: you’re closely related by blood to your spouse, such as brother and sister or first cousins; you’re related by marriage to your spouse; or either you or your spouse was already married when you entered into this marriage. The first ground is consanguinity, the second is affinity and the third is bigamy. Annulment grounds for these void marriages are the easiest to prove.

Voidable Marriages

Voidable marriages don’t break the law, so you could conceivably remain married if you wanted to do so. Grounds for a voidable marriage allege that you would not have married your partner if you had been aware of certain facts. The four voidable marriage grounds include fraud, duress, impotency or mental incapacity. Fraud means that your spouse concealed some important issue from you. A duress ground means he somehow threatened or coerced you into marrying him. Impotency means he can’t perform sexually, but you didn’t know this until after you married him. You also have a ground for annulment if either you or your spouse was not capable of understanding what you were doing when you married. This does not necessarily have to be because one of you suffers from a mental disorder. One of you could have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time the wedding took place.

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Massachusetts law allows a spouse to fight an annulment. If you don’t want your marriage annulled and your partner has filed a petition for annulment on one of the voidable grounds, you can answer that petition with a request to affirm the marriage. This usually makes it very difficult for the court to grant the annulment and it generally forces your spouse to file for a no-fault divorce instead. The court won’t grant an annulment on a bigamy ground if an objecting spouse can prove that the other spouse was aware of the previous marriage.


Divorce ends your marriage. If a Massachusetts court grants you an annulment instead, it means your marriage never legally happened. However, if you conceived any children together, in most cases the children are legally legitimate. An exception exists if your marriage was void because of consanguinity or affinity.

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What Goes to the Essence of Marriage in Annulment Cases?


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What Is the Meaning When Your Annulment Is Denied?

If a court denies your petition for annulment, the good news is that it does not mean you have to remain married. The bad news is that you can’t erase your marriage as though it never happened. Divorce ends a marriage that existed, whereas annulment legally declares that the marriage did not exist in the first place. Although annulment laws vary by state law, they’re usually prohibitive. Not everyone who applies for an annulment receives one.

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.

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.

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