I’ve Only Been Married for Three Months – Why Can’t I get an Annulment Now?
Annulment and divorce are not interchangeable. While a divorce is the dissolution of a marriage contract, an annulment is a legal decree that the marriage was invalid from the outset. Annulment effectively nullifies the marriage, as if it never existed.
Grounds for Annulment
There are several grounds for the annulment of a marriage, varying by jurisdiction. Annulment may be granted due to mental incapacity. If one of the spouses was incapacitated ““ due mental disability or intoxication, for example ““ then a marriage may qualify. If one of the spouses entered the marriage because of threat or force, that is grounds for annulment. The same is true if one of the spouses fraudulently entered the marriage. This fraud may take the form of concealment of important information ““ sterility, sexually transmitted diseases, homosexuality, and criminal history, among others. In some states, annulment may be granted if one spouse was below the legal age of consent, though the situation may be complicated by matters of parental consent. Finally, annulment may be granted for reasons of incest if the marriage was between close blood relatives. How close is too close may vary between jurisdictions.
Other Possible Grounds for Annulment
Annulment may be granted if one spouse was legally married to a third party when the marriage took place. Yet some jurisdictions consider this bigamy and therefore void under the law; no annulment is necessary. Some jurisdictions may also allow for annulment if one spouse hid a recent divorce from the other spouse, though this is less widespread. ‘Recent’ usually means the divorce was finalized less than one month before the wedding.
Important Annulment Caveats
Much confusion surrounds annulment, so there are a few important caveats to note. Above all, annulment has nothing to do with the duration of the marriage. A marriage can last twenty days or twenty years ““ the length of the marriage has no bearing on whether or not it qualifies for annulment. Rather, annulment is concerned with the circumstances at the time of the marriage. Further, many jurisdictions are less inclined to annul a marriage if the couple has had children. Finally, since the law declares that a marriage never took place, annulment may limit the ability of parties to get spousal support or share in the marital estate.
Grounds for annulment vary by jurisdiction. Those seeking annulment should research the grounds applicable in their state of residence and should file in that state. But remember that annulment is a legal proceeding with very real consequences and it should not be approached casually.