State laws regulate the institution of marriage, which includes annulment and certain restrictions on who may get married. Annulment is the legal process of invalidating a marriage. It is different from divorce in that it has the effect of "erasing" the marriage. In a civil annulment, a court rules on whether a marriage was legally valid to begin with. Laws in Delaware prohibit bigamy and marriages between closely related family members.
Civil Annulments and Prohibited Marriages in Delaware
The following chart highlights the main provisions of Delaware's laws that are related to civil annulments and prohibited marriages. See FindLaw's Marriage Law Overview section for additional articles and resources.
- Under relevant laws in Delaware, incestuous and bigamous marriages are prohibited.
- Incestuous marriages are marriages between closely related family members. There are exceptions for certain types of cousins, beginning with first cousins and extending to cousins that are more distantly related.
- Bigamous marriages are marriages where a party is already married to one person when they marry another.
|Grounds for Annulment
Under § 1506, the following are grounds upon which someone may pursue a civil annulment:
- If a party was of an unsound mind when they entered the marriage
- If a party was under the influence of alcohol or drugs when they entered the marriage
- If a party is physically incapable of consummating the marriage (impotence)
- If a party was under age at the time of the marriage, and consent was not obtained from a parent or guardian
- If the marriage was entered into on fraudulent grounds, under duress, as a result of a joke, or as a consequence of a dare
- If the marriages is bigamous, polygamous, or incestuous
|Time Limits for Obtaining Annulment
|Under the Delaware Code, the following are the time limits for seeking a civil annulment:
- For lack of capacity to consent, duress, jest, or dares: within 90 days of discovering these grounds
- For inability to physically consummate the marriage, within one year after discovery of this condition (impotence)
- If there is an under age party in the marriage: within one year of the the marriage
|Legitimacy of Children
|Children that are born to annulled marriage are considered legitimate.
An annulment is conceptually different from a divorce. An annulment, rather than dissolving a marriage that is broken, requires a determination by the judge that the union was never valid in the first place. The difference is subtle but significant. The "grounds for divorce" establish that a marriage is broken, while the "grounds for an annulment" explain why the marriage wasn't legal to begin with.
Need More Help? Contact an Attorney
If you would like to know more about the possibility of an annulment, there are many attorneys throughout Delaware with family law experience who may be able to help. In addition to letting you know whether you qualify for an annulment, they may be able to help you through the divorce process if that is your only option.