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, a different process than divorce, which may be sought in Delaware if there's a previously undissolved marriage or for other reasons. Delaware law also bans bigamy and marriage between double first cousins.
The following chart highlights the main provisions of Delaware's annulment and prohibited marriage laws, while a closer look at the law follows. See FindLaw's Marriage Law Overview section for additional articles and resources.
||Tit. 13 §1506, 101, 1301
|Grounds for Annulment
||Innocent party may demand for unsoundness of mind, influence of alcohol, drugs, etc.; physical incapacity to consummate; underage without consent of parents; fraud; duress; jest; dare; bigamy; polygamy; incestuous
|Time Limits for Obtaining Annulment
||Lack of capacity, fraud, duress, jest or dare: Within 90 days of obtaining knowledge; Inability to consummate: 1 yr. after knowledge obtained; Underage: Within 1 yr. of marriage; Prohibited: Anytime before death of either party or prior to settlement of estate
|Legitimacy of Children
||Children born of annulled marriage are legitimate
||Between person and ancestor, descendant, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, niece, nephew, first cousin
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 annulment" explain why the marriage wasn't legal to begin with. Prohibited Marriages
Delaware doesn't allow people to marry who are currently married, and also prohibits marriage between family members. Double first cousins may not marry. Double first cousins are so called because the siblings of one family marry the siblings of another family, e.g. two brothers marry two sisters. Also those who are more closely related than first cousins may not marry.
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.