Sometimes the thought of a divorce seems messy, expensive, and time consuming. Maybe you are thinking there should be an alternative to a divorce. How about an annulment? That seems like a quicker, cleaner process. However, an annulment is not an alternative to divorce. It is a separate procedure, with its own specific requirements.
A divorce is the undoing of a marriage, and the division of property and child time sharing. However, an annulment means that the marriage never really happened, because of some legal infirmity. The marriage was void from the outset.
When an Annulment can be Granted
You cannot just ask for and get an annulment from a court. Certain requirements must be met to show that the marriage was void or even illegal from the outset. An annulment can be granted where:
- One party was unable to comprehend that he or she was getting married—for example, a party was legally incapacitated, or intoxicated to the point that he or she could not appreciate that they were getting married
- You were married under coercion or threats
- You were married on the basis of fraud, or lies. This must be a major fraud, not “just a lie.” For example, someone lying about their ability to have children, lying about their immigration status, or lying about their birth gender may be grounds. Lying about past relationships, income, or other aspects of regular life probably would not justify an annulment
- One of you was already married to someone else, which often happens when people separate, but never actually went through a legal divorce
- One of you was under the age of 18, although if both spouses continue to be married past the age of 18, and engage in sexual relations, the marriage may not be able to be annulled
- The spouses are closely related family members
What an Annulment Does
If an annulment is granted, it will not affect your children, as issues regarding children are handled the same way as they are in a divorce—parenting time will be divided, and the Court will order a party to make child support payments.
Division of property does become difficult. Anything that is in one party’s name will be awarded to that person. The judge will not look to equitable factors, such as who paid for the property, who needs it most, or who contributed to the property’s upkeep or maintenance.
If there is a dispute over who gets property, general contract or civil law will have to determine who gets what—not the family law courts. The change from family law to civil law could alter who gets what property, and a separate lawsuit to determine who gets what property may have to be filed. There is also no alimony in an annulment.
Many religions provide for annulments, and they may even take place in houses of worship and be performed by religious leaders. However, the law does not recognize these as valid annulments.
Whether you need a divorce or an annulment, or just have questions, we can help. Contact The Law Office of Agnes Rybar LLC for help and guidance in your family law case.