Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Monday, October 24, 2011

Guest Post by Carol Montrose: Annulment Myths Debunked

When most people decide that the problems in their marriage are no longer fixable, that one or both parties have done something the other can’t live with, or that they have simply fallen out of love or outgrown each other, they may head straight for divorce court.  However, there are other ways to end a marriage, and annulment could be a good option for a lot of couples.  The problem is that most people don’t really understand annulment, how it works, and why it is different from divorce proceedings.  In fact, people seem to harbor a lot of myths when it comes to annulment.  But if more people knew how annulments worked, they might not have to go through some of the difficulties associated with divorce.  So here are just a few annulment myths debunked.

  1. Annulment is only for Catholics.  Although the Catholic Church does have a form of annulment that is totally separate from a legal divorce (in that it allows for remarriage within the church), there is also a legal form of annulment that can be obtained by anyone as an alternative to divorce or legal separation.  You’ll need to check the laws in your particular state to see if you qualify for this type of marriage dissolution, but it could provide the solution you’re looking for when you return to single status.
  2. It’s the same as divorce.  Although both divorce and annulment will effectively end your marriage, there are some major differences between the two.  For starters, an annulment can return you to the pre-marriage state of being legally single (rather than divorced).  In short, it voids your marriage as if it had never happened.  Further, you must meet specific criteria in order to qualify for annulment.  For example, annulment may be obtained if one or both parties were incapable of consenting to the marriage (due to age, drunkenness, etc.), if the consent was obtained by fraud, if the parties are related, or if one party is already married (and the spouse is still living).  Of course, there are other instances that make a couple eligible for annulment, but these are just a few that may apply.
  3. It’s too expensive.  Annulments are not without their costs, but the expense is similar to divorce in most cases.  You will likely pay between $500 and $1,000 for an annulment, what with court costs, legal fees, and so on.  While an amicable divorce could in fact be less expensive, you’re going to pay the same or even more once attorneys get involved, especially if one party is fighting the divorce.  Because the qualifications for annulment are so specific, it will likely require less time and expense than a messy divorce.
  4. It takes too long.  In general, an annulment takes about six months to complete, although yours may take more or less time depending on your case, the court schedule, etc.  Interestingly, some states require a period of separation before a petition on divorce can be heard once it has been filed (up to a year in some cases).  Annulments, on the other hand, can begin processing as soon as the paperwork is filed with the court.
  5. You can only get one right after marriage.  Most people are convinced that annulments can only be obtained within six months or a year of marriage.  This is not necessarily true.  Although some states do have time limits on annulment proceedings, they tend to have more to do with how long a spouse has known about the condition that is causing him or her to seek annulment.  In most cases, an annulment can be obtained at any time in the marriage as long as certain criteria are met.

Carol Montrose is a contributing writer for the premier DC accident lawyer, Price Benowitz LLP. The firm has offices in Washington, DC, Maryland, Virginia, and New York and handles DUI, criminal, immigration, personal injury, and disability cases.

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In Oklahoma Family Law Court, the annulment laws are VERY limited. Unless one of the spouses was already married, coerced the current spouse into marriage, or the current spouse was inebriated at the time of the wedding, then annulment is not an option for a couple.

Posted by: Tulsa Divorce Attorney | Oct 24, 2011 5:35:38 AM

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