A legal annulment differs from a divorce in a very basic way. A legal annulment is a court decree that determines a marriage invalid from it’s inception. On the other hand, a divorce terminates a lawfully existing marriage.
A legal annulment is a more complex legal process than most people realize. For this reason, if you desire a legal annulment, you need to seriously consider retaining the services of an experienced attorney to assist you with your case.
Annulment Not Favored
A legal annulment is not favored by public policy in U.S. states. There is a preference for courts to terminate marriages via divorce decrees or deal with marriage-related issues through legal separation proceedings. Annulling a marriage typically is permitted in rare situations.
Case abound in which a person files for annulment only to have a court deny the request. These leaves a person with three options: remain in the marriage, seek a divorce, or seek a legal separation. As an aside, not all states permit legal separation.
Grounds for Annulment
The grounds for which the annulment of a marriage can be sought are limited. The laws do vary somewhat from one state to another. However, the underlying reasons for which a person can seek an annulment are generally the same across the country.
The grounds for which a person can seek an annulment include incapacity at the time of the alleged wedding. In other words, one or both spouses were underage or mentally incapacitated at the time of the wedding.
If a spouse legally is married to another person at the time of a second marriage, an annulment would be possible. Finally, grounds upon which a marriage can be annulled is if a person married a prohibited family member. For example, if first cousins wed, that marriage could be subject to annulment.
Al of the grounds for annulment have one factor in common. In each of these situations, a person was legally incapable of entering into a valid marriage. Therefore, the marriage was never valid.
Keep in mind that state laws include certain time requirements for filing an annulment. If the time period expires, a person may be barred from pursuing a divorce and may be left seeking a divorce or legal separation.
Secular Versus Religious Annulment
A person interested in having a marriage civilly annulled needs to understand the distinction between secular or legal annulment and the religious derivation. Civil or legal annulment is an action by the state declaring that a marriage was invalid at the time of its inception.
If a marriage is legally or civilly declared invalid, the sacramental marriage status in certain churches is unchanged. Similarly, if a sacramental marriage is annulled by a church, that determination has no impact on the civil marriage. Two separate proceedings would be necessary to civilly and sacramentally annul a marriage.
Three Christian churches utilize annulment to declare a sacramental marriage invalid. They are the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, and the Methodist Church. They each have their own procedures for obtaining a sacramental declaration of annulment in regard to a marriage.
Preparing Annulment Paperwork
The paperwork necessary to proceed with an annulment case must be precise. It must specifically set forth why the marriage was never valid in the first instance. The documentation must fully comply with the specific requirements of the annulment statute in your state.
The failure to properly complete court documents needed in an annulment case can result in the doors to the court being slammed on a petitioner. The necessity to exactly prepare the necessary paperwork underscores the need for proper legal representation.
Annulment court proceedings are also complicated. An attorney is in the position to properly navigate an annulment case through court.
Retain an Annulment Lawyer
An annulment lawyer will schedule an initial consultation with you to discuss your case. During this appointment, a lawyer will evaluate your situation and advise whether or not an annulment is possible in your case. Legal counsel will also provide answers to your questions. He or she will also discuss all of your options regarding your marriage. As a general rule, an annulment lawyer will not charge a fee for this initial appointment to discuss your case.