An annulment is a way to nullify a marriage or domestic partnership. An annulment happens when a party petitions the court, and the court makes a finding that the marriage is not legally valid, and therefore never existed. The most bright line rule to declare a marriage invalid is when the relationship was either incestuous or bigamous. A person cannot enter into a marriage or domestic partnership with another person that they are close blood relatives with, or to a person who is legally married to another person. If either of those situations is present, a court will find that marriage to be legally invalid.
Though situations such as incest or bigotry are automatically annulled, there are also other circumstances in which a court may find the marriage was invalid such as either person’s age at the time of marriage, unsound mind, force, fraud or physical incapacity. Generally, for a marriage to be legally valid, each party must be eighteen years of age at the time of marriage, have the mental capacity to understand and appreciate the nature of marriage, be free from fraud or misrepresentation, and not be the product of any force.
Annulments differ from divorces and legal separations in that they are subject to the statute of limitations. That means there is a deadline for filing in certain situations. For example, the right for a party to seek an annulment on grounds of infancy, or because one of the parties was under the age of eighteen at the age of marriage, expires after the party who was under 18 reaches the age of 22. Similarly, for the grounds of fraud, force and physical incapacity, an annulment must be sought within four years of the marriage or domestic partnership.
Once a marriage or domestic partnership has been annulled, that relationship is deemed to have never existed. As such, the parties may not be entitled to the same rights and obligations that those with valid divorces or legal separations are. For example, the paternity or parentage of any children born into the marriage must be established. Similarly, alimony cannot be ordered unless the court finds their relationship is putative. If a court makes this finding, either party may have a right to community property and support.
If you have questions about, or believe your marriage is subject to an annulment, please contact our office to set up a consultation today.
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