When Is an Annulment Justified?
Ideally, a couple puts a foundation in place to help a relationship last in the long-term before getting married, but sometimes, after just a few days or weeks, it is clear things will not work. Such a short marriage can be hard to accept, and the obligations of divorce may seem unnecessary and unfair under the circumstances. While much less common, another option to sever a marriage is to seek an annulment. An annulment effectively puts each spouse back in the position each was in before the marriage and is treated as if the marriage never occurred at all. For extremely short-term marriages, annulment can appear like the desirable outcome, but annulments are actually much more complicated to secure, including considerable extra time and expense. This does not mean they are always inappropriate, but the pros and cons of this approach must be weighed. Actor Nicolas Cage is seeking an annulment after just four days of marriage based on allegations of fraud. Fraud is one basis used to justify annulment, but like many grounds used to argue for annulment, is hard to establish.
Grounds for Annulment
Annulment is granted when a court determines that a marriage is either void or voidable. Void marriages are those based upon prohibited acts, and must always be granted by a court. Examples of void marriage include a spouse that is too closely related, such as an uncle or niece, one spouse that is under the legal age of consent (18 in Florida), and a spouse that is already married (bigamy). These circumstances rarely occur, and can be rectified relatively quickly. However, most annulment petitions are based upon grounds that can render a marriage voidable, but this is up to the judge, and thus, an uncertain outcome. Some of the most common bases used to claim that an annulment is appropriate are:
- Sham marriage or fraud: This can occur when one spouse conceals a fact that is central to the marriage, such as marrying to obtain immigration status or for financial gain. Note that one spouse must never have intended to live together as a married couple for this basis to have merit.
- Inability to consent: If one or both spouses were under the influence of drugs or alcohol or were otherwise mentally incapacitated at time of the marriage, they would not have the legal ability to consent since they could not appreciate the consequences of this action.
- No consummation. If the marriage was never consummated, and this fact is brought out relatively quickly, this could serve as grounds for annulment. The longer one waits to petition for annulment on this ground, the less likely a court will be to grant it.
When Is Annulment the Right Choice?
Given the time and expense of getting an annulment, the question of when to choose this option over divorce is not uncommon. Since annulment is designed to put each spouse back in their respective positions before marriage, alimony and property division are off the table. As a result, if keeping the new spouse from pursuing these issues in divorce is the goal, annulment could be the answer. However, if there are minor children or commingled property between the spouses, courts will have to address these issues to fully resolve the case. In addition, many people seek an annulment for religious reasons, particularly when divorce is not accepted by a particular faith. An experienced divorce attorney should be consulted about whether annulment is a realistic option in a specific situation.
Talk to a Florida Divorce Attorney
Marriages are complicated arrangements that do not always work out. If your marriage is new, and you realize it was the wrong decision, talk to an Orlando divorce attorney about whether annulment is available in your situation. The attorneys at the Donna Hung Law Group know how to approach these complicated issues, and will work to develop a case to fully supports your desired outcome. Contact the Orlando divorce firm today at (407) 999-0099 for a confidential consultation.