The legal theory underlying annulment is that the marriage was not valid from the beginning, which means a legal marriage never really existed. An annulment, then, returns a person’s status to single, having never been married. Marriages that are subject to annulment proceedings are classified as “void” or “voidable,” and are sometimes referred to as nullified marriages. A void marriage is a void from the very beginning. With a voidable marriage, one of the parties has the right to annul the marriage but has not yet exercised that right. Court proceedings are required to annul a voidable marriage.
It is a common misconception that the annulment process is faster than a divorce. As with divorce, in annulment cases the court
will award custody of children and order the payment of child support.
The key distinction between a divorce and an annulment is that the
divorce terminates a previously valid marriage, whereas the annulment
does not involve a valid marriage.
Also another common misconception is that short duration of marriages qualify for an annulment. For example two weeks or a month, does not
qualify a marriage for annulment. The dissolution of a valid marriage,
albeit a short one, must still be accomplished through divorce
proceedings. It is important to understand that the duration of a
marriage is irrelevant to the analysis of whether the marriage is void
or voidable. Even a lengthy marriage of many years may still be
The family court will order an annulment if one of the following grounds is established:
1. Mental Illness, Insanity, or Mentally Challenged. If a person is
married while mentally ill, insane, or so mentally challenged that the
person could not knowingly and understandingly consent to the marriage,
then the marriage is void. Annulments are granted on the premise that
marriage is a consensual relationship — the mentally ill, insane, and
mentally challenged lack the legal capacity necessary to give their
consent to marry. The mental capacity of the person at the time of the
marriage is determinative, not some later date in the marriage or time
prior to the marriage.
2. Temporary Insanity. If temporary or periodic insanity is alleged,
then the condition at the time of marriage controls whether or not
capacity to marry was present. A marriage will not be annulled if it was
entered into while the party experienced a lucid interval.
3. Fraud. If one of the parties was untruthful or misrepresented
information for the purpose of inducing the other party into the
marriage, then the marriage is voidable and may be annulled on grounds
4. Lack of Consent or Duress. If a person is compelled to marry
another under threat of violence sufficient to overcome the mind and
will of a person of ordinary mental firmness, then the marriage is
voidable and may be annulled on the grounds that marriage is a
voluntary, consensual relationship and compulsion to marry is
involuntary and inconsistent with consent. Evidence of actual threats of
serious violence is required.
5. Intoxication. If either spouse was under the influence of drugs
or alcohol at the time of the marriage, or the complaining party can
show there was intoxication at the marriage ceremony to such a degree as
to render that person incapable of knowing the nature of the marriage
contract and its consequences, then the marriage is voidable.
6. Inability to Consummate the Marriage. To obtain an annulment for
impotency, the complaining party must prove that the other spouse was
permanently and incurably impotent when the marriage was entered into,
and that the impotence was not discovered until after the marriage took
7. Lack of Parental Consent for an Underage Marriage. Most states
have age requirements that must be met for legal consent to enter into a
marriage contract. In Arizona, a child under the age of 18 has to have
parental consent to marry. If an under-age person was able to obtain a
marriage license without court approval or parental approval, then the
marriage is voidable and may be annulled.
8. Bigamy. A person commits bigamy by entering into a marriage before
the final dissolution of an earlier marriage. The law dictates that a
person may only be married to one spouse at a time. Therefore, the
bigamous marriage is voidable. A person who marries another knowing that
his or her prior marriage has not been dissolved, however, may be
guilty of a crime.
9. Incestuous marriage. In general, all states prohibit marriages
between parents and children, between grandparents and grandchildren of
every degree, between brothers and sisters of the half as well as the
whole blood, and between uncles and nieces, aunts and nephews, and first
cousins. Such marriages are void.
10. Same-Sex Marriages. Arizona does not recognize same-sex
marriages which are void. However, same-sex marriages from another state
are still subject to annulment.
11. Mock Marriages. A mock marriage is voidable because it is
entered into when both parties have no intention that the marriage
should be binding. However, if the couple’s purpose was to accomplish a
specific objective in agreeing to marry, such as legitimizing a child,
then most courts will regard the marriage as valid and will not grant an
However, some of the grounds listed above a hard to prove and convincing a judge can be difficult. If you are unable to convince a judge that you qualify then a judge can dismiss your case and make you start over again if you want your marriage dissolved.
If you are successful in getting your annulment granted both parties forfeit
any rights that they enjoyed previously as “married” persons, including
the right to marital property, to succession and inheritance, and to
spousal maintenance (alimony).
The choice as to seek an annulment or a divorce is a difficult one. A person should seek the advice of an attorney if they are looking to annul their marriage before proceeding.
For more information call Discount Divorce & Bankruptcy for a FREE consultation.
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Visit www.discountdivorcepro.com or call (602) 896-9020. Discount Divorce is located at 13817 N. 19th Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85023-6105.
As always you
should seek legal advice for specific issues like the one above before
coming to Discount Divorce to have your documents done and processed so
that your legal rights may be protected.