Massachusetts Divorce Guide

Annulment

Q. I’m somewhat familiar with a marriage annulment. What do they do that divorces don’t do?
Firstly, save yourself some legwork. A Massachusetts annulment ‘undoes’ a marriage, meaning the marriage never should have taken place, and that the marriage is a void or voidable marriage (see the void and voidable marriage question below).  You will want an annulment if you were defrauded, deceived, lied to, was underage or coerced into marriage. Otherwise filing for a divorce is the direction you need to go in. Divorce ends a marriage. Annulments make it disappear.

Q. What is the process of a marital annulment. What do I need to do first?
You should speak with an attorney well versed in annulments in your state. Many of the decisions courts make are based on case law rather than statutes. Annulments are tricky and complicated. One files a petition like a divorce, cites grounds for annulment, serves the spouse, and requests a hearing.

Q. I was underage when I got married. Is the marriage void? Does it automatically get voided or annulled, or do I need to do something?
Underage marriage is a valid ground for annulment. The marriage is void, but it may make sense to go through the annulment process anyway, for legal reasons. You don’t want to get caught accused of bigamy if you were to marry later on. Speak with an attorney.

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Q. How does Massachusetts divorce law distinguish a void marriage versus a voidable marriage?
If one party was not legally able to enter a marriage because, for example, they were already married to someone else, the marriage is void from the beginning. If there is some other reason why the marriage should not be recognized, such as fraud, then the marriage is voidable. When a marriage is void, the parties are not required to file for a Massachusetts annulment but are encouraged to file for an annulment nonetheless. A void marriage would be:

  • Where the parties are too closely related by blood (consanguinity)
  • Too closely related by marriage (affinity) like a mother-in-law marries a son, or cases of bigamy
For voidable marriages to be annulled, one must demonstrate fraud or the lack or capacity to understand properly what they did (drugs, alcohol, mental illness, etc.).

[Massachusetts General Laws – Chap 207.1-7, 14-17]

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