Family Law

What is an Annulment of Marriage?

An annulment is the legal voiding of a marriage. A court order is issued declaring the marriage null and void. The legal meaning of "void" means the marriage was determined to be illegal or invalid based on certain grounds, or reasons, spelled out in state law. An annulment requires a court hearing. If you are the person seeking the annulment, you are the "petitioner." The other party to the marriage is called the "defendant" or "respondent."

An Annulment Is Not a Divorce

An annulment is not the same as a divorce. A divorce is the dissolution of a valid marriage. It is a legal method for ending the marriage between you and your spouse. A divorce may entitle you to certain rights such as alimony, and you'll usually be awarded a portion of the marital assets. An annulment is different; it means the marriage never existed. It does not give you or your spouse any rights to alimony, and no division of marital property occurs. You also are not entitled to any spousal benefits under the federal Social Security program.

Grounds for Annulment

An annulment is a legal proceeding that is handled in state court according to the laws of that state. An annulment is not automatic. It must be granted by a judge. Annulment procedures vary from one jurisdiction to another, and each state has its own laws on the grounds for an annulment. Reasons for annulment may include marriage between minors who were too young to marry, marriage between blood relatives, and a marriage that was entered into based on fraud or coercion. Some states also will grant an annulment if the marriage was never consummated or if one of the parties suffers from mental illness.

An Annulment Is Permanent

An annulment not only terminates the marriage but also erases it. The law treats an annulled marriage as if it never happened, unlike a divorce in which two people were once married and the marriage has been legally dissolved. After the judge has granted an annulment, both parties are legally single. If the two of you later decide to remarry each other, assuming it is lawful for you to do so, you will have to obtain a new marriage license and remarry.

An Annulment Requires Residency

An annulment requires you to be a resident of the state in which you file your petition. If you are not a resident, the annulment proceeding can still occur if the other party is a resident of that state. At least one of you must be a resident so the state court can assume jurisdiction over the case. Without jurisdiction, the judge cannot hear the case or grant the annulment.

A Divorce Lawyer Can Help

The law surrounding the annulment of a marriage is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a divorce lawyer.

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