An annulment is a legal procedure much like a divorce. However, anannulment action establishes that a marriage was legally flawed and thus should be treated as void (as if it never legally existed). In a divorce the marriage is considered initially valid but has later become irretrievably broken, and thus should be dissolved. The legal differences between never having been legally married (an annulment) verses having been married and later having the marriage dissolved (a divorce) can be significant in some cases.
Most marriages, no matter how unhappy, will not qualify for an annulment. For an annulment there must generally be something that was legally deficient about the marriage agreement at its inception. As such the union was never legally sufficient. Typically, one of the following types grounds must be established to annul a marriage (this is not an exhaustive list):
- The marriage was illegal because the Husband and Wife did not legally qualify to be married. Examples could be: 1) the marriage of one who is already legally married, 2) the marriage of a minor, 3) the marriage of close family members such as siblings, or 4) the marriage of an incompetent such as a severely mentally retarded person.
- One party was impotent and unable to consummate the marriage (to have sex) and the other party was unaware of this fact prior to the marriage.
- One or both spouses were mentally incapable of entering into the marriage contact when it occurred and they did not ratify or confirm the marriage thereafter. Think of being very drunk in Las Vegas and waking up married with no memory of the event.
- The marriage was entered into under material false circumstances, such as hiding a criminal history, concealment of impotence, concealment of sexually transmitted diseases, etc.
- One of the spouses was forced or threatened into the contract. Think of the shotgun marriage.
Should you qualify for an annulment then you should act quickly. A delay in proceeding is often legally interpreted as ratifying an otherwise invalid marriage, thus disqualifying your right to an annulment. If you would like to speak with an attorney who understands annulments then please contact S. David Anton, Esq. of the Anton Legal Group for more information.