Rules for Annulment

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Annulment is a legal process rendering a marriage null and void and declaring that the marriage never happened. All states recognize marital annulment and agree that some marriages are illegal, some are prohibited and there may be some conditions present at the time of the marriage that render a marriage invalid. In such cases, the wronged or innocent spouse has every right to wipe the marriage off and start a new life on a fresh note.

Grounds for Annulment:

Most of the rules for annulment address the issues which render a marriage eligible for annulment. They decide whether one must file for an annulment or divorce. These rules are also known as grounds for annulment.

There are two types of grounds for annulment. These are as follows:

  1. Factual Grounds –> The grounds which are provable in the court on the basis of facts are termed as factual grounds. The examples of these marriages are consanguinity / incest or affinity, one of the spouses being under the legal marriageable age, same-sex marriages and bigamous marriage. These grounds can be proved with the help of witnesses and documents supporting the claims.

  2. Other Grounds – The other grounds consist of more grounds which are a bit difficult to prove. These grounds are fraud, coercion, intoxication or being under the influence of drugs, medications or alcohol, impotency, refusal or inability to consummate the marriage, defects in the marriage ceremony or license, concealment, misrepresentation, misunderstanding, mental instability, temporary or permanent insanity and adultery.

Not all states grant annulment on the basis of all these grounds. But these are some generic grounds which can be used as a reason to get an annulment. To know the state specific grounds, one must refer to the statute of the particular state or hire a professional attorney.

Other Rules for Annulment:

The other important rules for annulment address the issues which are equally important as grounds for annulment. These rules are as follows:

  • Time-Limit – It is a popular belief that the duration of marriage matters when it comes to applying for an annulment. These is no time-limit as to when a couple can and should file for an annulment. However, it is implied that one must file immediately after they become aware of the particular of the particular condition that drives them to take a decision to get an annulment. A couple married for 20 years can also file for an annulment just like a couple married for 20 days.

    However, some of the states have specified a time-limit for some specific grounds such as underage or incestuous marriage. This time-limit varies from state to state. One needs to make sure they fit into the time-limit as and if given by the particular statute.

  • Cohabitation – Indulging in sexual relations after discovering the condition rendering the marriage null and void, ratifies the marriage and makes it valid in some states. It is therefore advisable to stay separate when one is looking for an annulment.

    Prohibited marriages cannot be ratified whatever happens and thus same-sex, bigamous and incestuous marriages are considered as void ab initio. In case of an underage marriage, the underage spouse has to file for annulment before they attain the legal marriageable age of the concerned state. If it is discovered that the couple has been cohabiting after the discovery of grounds on which they have filed the annulment petition, the court terminates the annulment process and advises the couple to file a divorce suit.

  • Division of Property – If the annulment is sought shortly after marriage, the marital property acquired is not substantial and thus it is easy to divide the property and return the couple to their pre-marital status. However in case of a long-term marriage, the assets acquired and debts accumulated are substantial and considerable in stature.

    In such cases, the court divides the property along with the assets, debts, payments, responsibilities as it would in a divorce case. The day-to-day expenses of the household, education of the children (born or adopted during the marriage) as well as the support payments can also be directed by the court. However, if the property matters are too complicated, the court advises the couple to file for divorce.

  • Children – The children born during the marriage are considered as legitimate even after the marriage is declared null and void and wiped off the record. Both the parents are responsible for the child care, health, education and other duties as appropriate as of parents towards children.

    However, in the marriages in which minor children are involved; annulments are almost impossible to get. The court can direct the couple to go for a legal separation (if recognized by the statute) or divorce.

The rules for annulment differ from state to state and are subject to the jurisdiction. It is wise to hire an attorney rather than going for do-it-yourself annulment. It is a rare occurrence in almost every state as the grounds are difficult to prove and rules for annulment are quite rigid.

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