Questionnaire: Are You Entitled To An Annulment?

An annulment, like a divorce, terminates the marriage relationship. But when an annulment is granted, it is as though the marriage never existed at all. 

Most married people learn things about their spouses after marriage that may come as a surprise, and not always a pleasant one. In some marriages, however, a spouse may be shocked to learn that the person they married is not at all who they believed them to be. And sometimes, a marriage happens under circumstances that undermine its validity.

In these latter situations, the parties may seek an annulment. Laws regarding annulments vary from state to state (and also among religious communities), but if you can answer "yes" to one or more of the following questions, you may have grounds for annulling your marriage.

Are You Entitled to an Annulment?

Was one of the parties still legally married to another person at the time of marriage?

Yes _____ No _____

Are you and your spouse too closely related to each other by blood, such as siblings, first cousins, aunts, uncles, etc.?

Yes _____ No _____

Did one (or both) of the parties lack the requisite mental capacity to voluntarily enter into the marriage due to mental illness?

Yes _____ No _____

Were one (or both) of the parties facing a mental incapacity to voluntarily enter the marriage due to the effects of drugs or alcohol?

Yes _____ No _____

Was one of the parties forced by threats or duress to enter the marriage?

Yes _____ No _____

Is one of the parties physically unable to engage in sexual intercourse, and unwilling or unable to change?

Yes _____ No _____

Did you fail to consummate the marriage (i.e., you did not engage in sexual intercourse)? (This is often required in conjunction with another ground.)

Yes _____ No _____

Was one (or both) of the parties too young to enter into marriage according to the law?

Yes _____ No _____

Did one (or both) of the parties, if under legal age, lack the requisite parental consent for the marriage?

Yes _____ No _____

Was the wife pregnant with another man's child at the time of the marriage?

Yes _____ No _____

Did one of the parties grossly misrepresent a crucial fact about himself or herself, such as religion or criminal history?

Yes _____ No _____

Did you fail to meet the legal requirements for marriage (e.g., no witnesses, etc.)?

Yes _____ No _____

Examples of Annulments

The following three scenarios are often grounds for annulment under state law:

  • Your spouse committed an act of bigamy and has another family elsewhere
  • Your spouse engaged in an act of misrepresentation that resulted in your agreement to marry them
  • You were underage when you married your partner

As a result, under the laws of every jurisdiction in the United States, the marriage was not valid in the first place.

Importantly, underage marriages are not permitted in most jurisdictions in the United States unless parental consent has been obtained. Or maybe your marriage license was the product of fraud in some other way, such as your partner disclosing a lie on the license.

The above-listed situations are all considered legal grounds for obtaining an annulment. And if you choose to get an annulment, your marriage will be treated as though it never existed in the first place. It will be dissolved by a civil annulment court order.

As mentioned above, remember that the grounds for annulment vary depending on the state. Make sure to refer to your state's specific laws and requirements regarding annulment. You may want to consult with a divorce attorney for legal assistance or advice, as you will need to meet the burden of proof to obtain the annulment.

You may find that when you compare annulment vs. divorce, divorce may be easier to obtain. It also may provide you with the opportunity to request spousal support and a division of property which you cannot get if you go through with the annulment.

Effects of Annulment on Child Custody

You might be considering an annulment and are wondering what child custody determinations might look like. Under most state laws, child custody determinations are treated similarly regardless of whether you dissolve your marriage by a civil annulment or a divorce. In other words, the differences are almost nominal in nature.

Determinations of child support for underage or minor children are treated in the same way, as well, under most circumstances. In either case, the process can be confusing and difficult to handle on your own. It's always wise to contact a family law attorney to make sure you're on the right track, and to resolve any issues related to child custody.

In cases where a marriage is annulled, spouses must determine legal custody. “Legal custody" refers to a parent's ability to make major decisions for their child. Often, major decisions are those related to healthcare, education, and religion. This list is not exhaustive, however.

Under circumstances of annulment, parents must also decide on parenting schedules and determine where the child will live. You will need to come up with a parenting plan regardless of whether you've chosen to undergo a civil annulment.

In cases where a marital union is found to be a void marriage, expect that child custody determinations will look very similar to those of a valid marriage that has ended in a divorce. It is important to note, as well, that religious annulments do not carry the weight of law as civil annulments do. A religious annulment will not result in the same set of legal circumstances as a civil annulment.

This process doesn't always need to be a contentious one with your partner. You could reach common grounds and separate amicably, while still obtaining a civil annulment. Adjustments to your marital status don't always need to be traumatic. Such adjustments also can result in the amicable sharing of children.

Understand that a legal marriage is not eligible for an annulment, and you will need to identify a legal reason under which your marriage was not valid in the first place. Again, annulment cases can be tricky, so contact a family law attorney if you need more help. If you don't qualify for an annulment, you can still attempt to get a divorce through a divorce lawyer. Divorce proceedings will still relieve you of the marriage and dissolve it. Legal separation could also be another route, which can also result in similar child custody determinations.

Are You Entitled to an Annulment? Talk to an Attorney Today

Annulments require a very specific set of circumstances and may not be available to many couples looking to split up. Contact a local family law lawyer who can give you legal advice and explain the annulment laws in your state and assess if you qualify for an annulment.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • You may not need an attorney for a simple divorce with uncontested issues
  • Legal advice is critical to protect your interests in a contested divorce
  • Divorce lawyers can help secure fair custody/visitation, support, and property division

An attorney is a skilled advocate during negotiations and court proceedings. Many attorneys offer free consultations.

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Don't Forget About Estate Planning

Divorce is an ideal time to review your beneficiary designations on life insurance, bank accounts, and retirement accounts. You need to change your estate planning forms to reflect any new choices about your personal representative and beneficiaries. You can change your power of attorney if you named your ex-spouse as your agent. Also, change your health care directive to remove them from making your health care decisions.

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