Unlike divorce, which is the legal dissolution of a marriage, annulment is a procedure that cancels a marriage. While divorce restores both parties to their single status, annulment declares that the marriage was never valid and never legally existed.
People often associate annulment with religion, but religious annulment is different than legal annulment. Some people get divorced in the eyes of the law and annul their marriage within their church.
Grounds for Annulment
If you wish to pursue a legal annulment, one of the following situations must be true:
- One of the spouses was under 18 years old and did not have parental consent at the time of the marriage.
- One of the spouses was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the marriage.
- One of the spouses was impotent at the time of the marriage.
- One of the spouses was forced to enter into the marriage or coerced into marriage by fraud or duress.
- One of the spouses was mentally ill and could not consent to the marriage as a result.
- One of the spouses was divorced within a 30-day window of the marriage and the other spouse did not know about it.
In Texas, couples may not live together after discovering one of the grounds for annulment is true – or sobering up if they were under the influence at the time of the wedding. A marriage may also be invalid if a couple skipped the state’s mandatory 72-hour waiting period between the license issuance and the wedding.
Additionally, certain reasons for annulment have deadlines. Annulments due to underage spouses must occur before the underage person turns 18, annulments involving concealed divorces must occur before the couple’s first anniversary, and annulments because of waiting period violations must be filed within 30 days.
Most annulment cases are faster and easier than divorce proceedings because couples are usually together for less time, meaning they have not yet had children or accumulated much property.
That being said, some annulments do involve issues of property division and alimony, as well as child custody and support. While an annulment cancels a marriage, all children born during that marriage are still considered legitimate.
How To Get an Annulment
To get an annulment, you must file a petition for annulment. In some situations, such as those involving an underage spouse, a friend or relative may file an annulment on your behalf. Once you file suit, your spouse will have the opportunity to respond. Ultimately, the judge will either grant or deny your annulment.
If your annulment is granted, you will no longer be married, and legally, it will be as if your marriage never existed.
Annulment only addresses the marriage in question, so if you have children, you will need to file a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SARC) to address issues like child custody and support.
Before you begin the annulment process, you should speak to an attorney. This is especially true if you have children or need to make decisions regarding assets.
Kay Polk, Attorney at Law can help you determine whether or not you qualify for an annulment, file suit, file a SARC, if necessary, and work out all problems associated with property division.
Call us at (713) 234-6260 or contact us online to get started today.