The annulment of a marriage erases the marriage completely, as if it never happened. Without a marriage, there is no marital property or debt. Therefore, in a civil action to annul a marriage, there will be no equitable distribution. There are other mechanisms to divide jointly owned property, but not by equitable distribution.
An action for annulment results in custody and child support orders, if children are involved, just as it would with any unmarried couple. Although rare, alimony can be awarded. Religious annulments are something entirely different and must be addressed with your religious leader, not the court system.
Grounds for Annulment
- One spouse is already married or in a civil union and the other spouse was unaware of that at the time of the marriage
- Nonage: Either spouse was under the age of 18 at the time of marriage, having no legal right to consent to marry
- Duress: Threat of serious violence, or something similar, generally toward the spouse-to-be or a loved one, if that individual does not marry the threatening spouse-to-be
- One or both of the spouses lack mental capacity or mental ability at the time of the marriage to give consent. Think in terms of severe intoxication as well as other physiological lack of metal capacity or ability.
- Failure of one spouse to advise the other of their impotence. This includes the refusal to consummate the relationship as well as the inability to do so and if a woman conceals her inability to bear children
- Marriage of between close blood relatives
- Fraud and misrepresentation including:
- Lie of either spouse about desire to have, or not have, children
- Immigrant lies about reasons for marriage when really only going through the marriage to obtain citizenship
- One spouse is addicted to drugs or alcohol and misrepresents that to the other spouse prior to marriage
- Lies of one spouse about their religious beliefs which was a major factor in the marriage or civil union
- At time of marriage, wife fails to advise husband that she is pregnant by another man
- NOT lies about financial circumstances (this has been found inadequate to support annulment)
The fraud or misrepresentation must be such that the nature of the marriage relationship itself, the nature of the relationship between the partners, is significantly impacted.
Proof and Defenses
It is not enough to simply make the claims warranting annulment, the spouse bringing the action must prove the grounds claimed. The burden of proving the allegations warranting annulment includes providing both documentation and testimony that supports the allegations in the complaint for annulment. It is not enough simply to make the claim.
For each item of proof put into evidence by documentation or testimony, the other spouse has the right to disprove the claims, challenge any documents or testimony and put in their own documents and testimony to defend the claims. In addition, if the spouse seeking the annulment has continued to live with the other spouse after they found out about the problem(s), the spouse will be deemed to have “confirmed” the marriage and annulment will not be granted.
Lastly, if the spouse bringing the action has been guilty of some fraud or lie that goes to the core of the marriage relationship, annulment will not be granted.
If you need to discuss a court action for annulment, call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen for a free initial consultation at 201-845-7400.