How To Annul A Marriage

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on June 28, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Annulling a marriage. This is not a legal procedure only for nutty celebrities who go crazy in Vegas one weekend. This is a valid civil legal procedure that nullifies a marriage. An annulment is different than a divorce. A divorce dissolves a valid marriage; an annulment says that no valid marriage ever occurred. Some people choose to annul a marriage for religious reasons so they may have the chance to re-marry under the laws of their church. For others, it is a good way to void a marriage of short duration, with some states requiring that the marriage be less than four years.

Assuming you are not a nutty celebrity, what are the basic reasons to annul a marriage? The law views marriage as a contract, therefore the basic legal reasons why any other contract would be cancelled by a court often also apply to annulments. Of course there are a few others added in, because marriage is a unique relationship as well as a contract.

The reasons for annulling a marriage include: insanity, fraud, duress, intoxication, and lack of consent if underage. Reasons that apply only to the marriage contract would include: bigamy, incestuous marriage, impotency (not the temporary kind), misunderstanding (as pertains to children), or a refusal to consummate the marriage.

As of 2005, some states still listed same sex marriage as a valid reason for annulment. With gay rights groups fighting all over the country for the right to marry, it seems unlikely that one would use that reason to predicate an annulment. However, in states that still define marriage as between one man and one woman, it remains a valid reason for annulment.

In most states, an annulment can result in the same type of division of property, custody of children and award of spousal and child support as a divorce. Once your marriage is annulled, as in divorce, you no longer have the property, or inheritance rights you did while married. 

If you are considering an annulment, a cold hard look at the facts can be useful. As with marriage itself, ending a marriage either by dissolving it with a divorce or decreeing it was not valid to begin with via an annulment, is a major step with long-lasting repercussions. Take a look at the questionnaire, "Are You Entitled to an Annulment?." Often, as with a divorce, the assistance of a divorce attorney is recommended, especially if there is property to divide or children to consider.

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