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How to file for annulment

Make the divorce process easier on yourself

A marriage annulment is a legal process that dissolves a marriage and declares it null and void. What separates a divorce from an annulment is that a divorce terminates a legally entered into marriagewhereby an annulment is a court declaration that the marriage never existed (or should never have existed). Both annulment and divorce cause the parties to return to single or unmarried status.

Contrary to a popular myth, annulments are not reserved solely for marriages of shorter duration. In the U.S. each of the fifty states regulate marriage, divorce and annulment within their respective states, and at least one party must meet the same residency requirements to file for an annulment as they would if they filed for a divorce. Marriages that get annulled are done so on grounds that fall into one of two categories: a void marriage or a voidable marriage.

Void Marriage – one of the parties may invalidate the marriage. If annulled, the marriage is regarded as never having taken place, and is invalid from the start. Essentially, a void marriage had an impediment at the time the ceremony took place, and a decree of annulment declares that no lawful marriage had come into existence.

Voidable Marriage – the marriage is lawful until or unless one of the parties petitions the court during the lifetimes of both parties. and proves that certain conditions existed during the marriage that made the union voidable.

For an explanation on how an annulment and a divorce differ, consider this. An attorney has one or more licenses to practice law. If the professional licenses are taken away due to improper behavior, the licenses are considered no longer valid, and a legitimate license to practice if suspended or revoked (the person’ is divorced from his or her licenses). Thus, the contract is broken.

On the other hand, if it is discovered that the attorney never completed the requirements of that profession (e.g. never passed the bar exam), that person was never legally able to practice law, and the attorney’s past legal activities are nulified.

finger pointing rightIf you are contemplating an annulment, it is less likely your spouse will contest it if you have the annulment paperwork downloaded, filled out and ready to file when you discuss it.

Grounds for Annulment

In general terms, annulments are granted when a party to the marriage provides proof that one or more grounds apply to his or her marriage. Annulment laws vary by state, so check the laws that apply to you.

Grounds can include:

  • There was some element of fraud at the time of the marriage. This can be due to the concealment of a criminal history, impotence, sexually transmitted diseases, etc.
  • Mental disability – one or both  did not have the mental capacity to enter into a marriage contract. (i.e. due to drunkenness or mental disability – lack of awareness they were married).
  • Consanguinity – Some U.S. states forbid cousins to be married. Others are more lenient and only forbid people to marry their brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, or aunts and uncles. Consanguinity is a ground for annulment in most states.
  • Bigamy – Bigamy is the act or condition of a person married to another person while still being lawfully married to a third person.
  • Polygamy – Situation in which one man is either married to or involved in sexual relationships with a number of different women at one time, married or not.


Questions and Answers

There is no way of knowing which end to your marriage is best for you without knowing more. You do need a specific ground to annul your marriage. Your best bet would be to look for local legal services that could steer you in an inexpensive and efficient manner. Review your State resources page and click on the Resources tab, where you will find lots of help.
That is a common misperception. Like the answer above, each state has its own rules on how long after the marriage you can file for an annulment. Also, you will find that the individual grounds for annulment often have their own time limitation in which to file. These are typically referred to as statutes of limitation. To begin with you should check your state page.
The truth is that you should not go through with the marriage for many reasons. If you do go through with the marriage and still want it annulled, remember that you need grounds. Think about it. You are willing to marry someone for reasons that will become unacceptable once you are married? We think not. Review this page to see if you qualify.
Some states do set limits on how far into the marriage one can get before preventing a request for annulment. In addition, states look at how long a spouse has had knowledge  that a condition existed before he or she decided to file for annulment. In other words, if you have known for years that your spouse has another wife somewhere, and you are just now objecting, you might get denied an annulment.  Check your individual state for details.
You certainly can represent yourself, but like divorce, your best interests are served with sound legal advice. Even if it means paying for advice by the hour, it would be best to go that way. The annulment process can be tricky and complex. You are expected to observe the same rules in court that lawyers do, so if you file yourself, do your homework. There is an old saying that goes: A person that represents himself in court has a fool for a client.
That depends on your state and local laws, and your financial situation. If your income is low or you are on public assistance, your local court may waive the fees. Ask your local Clerk of the Court. If your income is too high to receive a waiver of fees, you will have to pay them for a court case to proceed to completion. Lawyer\’s fees are another matter. Legal Aid may be able to help. See your state\’s resources.
It will depend on a number of factors, not the least of which will be which court is the appropriate venue, who filed first, what your responses will be in these actions, and more. If you both agree to end the marriage, you should be able to agree on which method (we can tell you that a divorce is the easier option) to pursue. It is possible one of you needs to request a dismissal of the other\’s petition, and if you and your spouse cannot agree, one of the judges will decide. It is best to get a divorce lawyer\’s opinion on this though.
No, you must be notified by law. Any proceeding failing to notify you can be contested on that basis. You were married together. The legal system expects you both to participate in ending the marriage. There is a possibility that you could be divorced however. If your partner was unable to find you, and testified to a court that a proper search for you was done, and he or she put notice in newspapers, a divorce may have been completed.
You certainly can contest the annulment petition, but if your spouse has grounds and can prove them, the process can go through over your objections. Contesting a divorce is handled in the same manner. If one of the partners wants out, they are out. Asking for an annulment after three years is unusual. Does she claim she just discovered info about you that would invalidate the marriage? We would think a divorce would be simpler.
State laws require that he get a legal divorce first. A religious annulment is beyond the scope of this site, although our understanding is that to remarry in the Catholic Church and/or to be able to receive sacraments, he will need a religious annulment. You may be able to influence the church annulment, but why would you want to? Spite? Revenge? Let it go. Your best bet would be to speak to a Catholic priest or another church official.
This dilemma has all the markings of a nightmare. There is often a conflict when spouses live in separate countries and have different citizenship. Your initial problem is likely going to be an issue of whether you can adequately notify her of a hearing in a timely way. Another question would be whether she could get her interests represented in any proceeding here. Speak with an attorney who specializes in divorce, annulment and international law.
Much like a missing spouse in a divorce case, you will need to prove to a court that you searched thoroughly for your partner. Searching does not mean re-shuffling pillows on the sofa, though :-). Plan on contacting employers, former employers, relatives, neighbors, friends and on and on. And you must keep accurate records of your inquiries. You will likely have to do service by publication - a process where you put notification ads in newspapers for successive weeks.  Your state (and perhaps your local government) may have its own specific requirements as it relates to searching and publicizing legal notices. It  is best to get a divorce lawyer\’s opinion on this. You could start by asking your local Clerk of the Court.
You (or your attorney) can get a copy of his marriage certificate from the county he married in (Clerk of Courts in many cases). You do need to prove that the other marriage exists to get your marriage annulled.
If there was no ceremony, you never got married, and no need for an annulment. Good luck.
It certainly sounds like deception to one degree or another and is probable grounds for an annulment. Fraud, or being defrauded, is a central element to annulments. You need to protect yourself financially right away (credit cards, bank accounts, etc). See an attorney.
If you married her while she was still married to someone else, your marriage is void and it is probable that there is no need for annulment. We strongly suggest you see an attorney experienced in annulments so that you abide by your state\’s laws.
Anyone can file to get a marriage annulled, but in order to get your\’s annulled, you will need to prove grounds for it, and fighting between yourselves is not one of the grounds. Look at your state\’s annulment requirements. It is less complicated to file for divorce than it is to prove grounds for annulment. An annulment is not available for those that made a mistake marrying someone; rather it is usually reserved for when one person defrauds the other. Consider getting a divorce instead.
Is he Roman Catholic? We would assume he wants to remarry, and in the Catholic Church, you must first have an annulment. It is probable he is trying to get a legal annulment to assist him with a religious one. A legal annulment can help legitimize a religious one in the eyes of the church. You would be wise to cooperate with him to get it done, unless he has held something over your head. In that case, negotiate a settlement of sorts. :-)
Unless your ex has named someone else as his or her guardian because of some incompetency, or has given others powers of attorney, your ex must represent him or herself with or without an attorney.
No. While abuse is very poor behavior, it is only grounds for divorce, and should not be tolerated in any situation. You might consider getting a feel for suing for divorce on grounds versus using the no-fault option. In some states and locales fault divorces can yield advantages in how marital assets are divided or how alimony is determined. A local attorney will know the ropes.
There is no difference or legal distinction between the two and how they relate to custody and support. When children are involved, the court will determine what is in the best interests of the child(ren). An annulment granted to a couple with children has no more or less bearing on the legitimacy of the offspring as a divorce does.
No, abandonment does not meet the annulments test but does for a divorce. Consider filing for divorce if you want to end the marriage. You can file for a no-fault divorce or use abandonment in a fault divorce.
Yes, this certainly sounds like a case of fraud, or concealment. See an attorney who regularly handles annulments for a final determination. There may be a good chance you can get out with an annulment.
No, infidelity is not one of the grounds for annulment in any states we are aware of, but as always, check on your state\’s rules. Infidelity is a very difficult thing to overcome (and forgive), but make sure any hope for reconciliation is gone before ending your marriage.
If you can prove that you married during a time that you were incapacitated, you might qualify for an annulment. Remember, annulments are generally available for those who got taken advantage of in one way or another. If you cannot give a judge any background to show you deserve an annulment, the judge may deny you your petition and suggest that you sue for divorce.
The answer will be that if you met all the requirements of your state to marry at that time, you would not qualify for an annulment. It cannot hurt to run it by a lawyer though.
Your situation sounds like it requires specific legal advice. Remember, with annulments you have to prove a condition was true with facts before you can be successful, where a divorce simply requires a desire to end the marriage without pointing out blame or fault. We suggest that you do not make this difficult for yourself. Cut your losses and go.
Yes, like a divorce you have to wait until it (annulment) is final, at which time you are single (although you might consider waiting awhile, anyway). What is the rush?
Yes, it appears fraud is an issue here, so an annulment is likely to be granted. He may well get into trouble as INS does track suspicious marriages.
It would be much simpler to just remain his wife, but we understand family pressures. You are free to marry anyone after an annulment. Consider having a frank discussion with your parents, and perhaps include your husband. There may be perceptions that could be way off base.
While that would be pressure, in the eyes of the law, you chose the decision to marry rather than being forced into it. Generally you would not have grounds for an annulment. Double-check with an attorney though.
Consanguinity refers to a situation where someone married another person too closely related. Uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, first cousins and others fall into this category and are prohibited from marrying.
Bigamy is the act or condition of a person marrying another person while still being lawfully married to a third person. It is prohibited in all states, and is grounds for annulment of a marriage.
Yes, it is bigamy. It is going to depend on your state laws. He certainly needs to get the previous marriage finalized and ended. In some states that will automatically make your marriage valid. This can get tricky, as many states operate by case law with annulments. We suggest you speak to a family law attorney.
Bigamy or consanguinity are against the law, so technically both actions could possibly carry with them some punishment. It is unlikely though, unless someone by these acts harmed another and can prove damages.

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