Family Law Prof Blog

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

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Case Law Development: Burden of Proof in Annulment Actions

Nowdays, it seems that you only hear about annulments when pop stars wake up from the party a few days later and regret their impetuousness.   Here’s a nice old-fashioned annulment case.  Wife files for divorce after 13 years of marriage.   Husband counterclaims for annulment, arguing that Wife was already married at the time she and Husband wed.  Wife is required to produce a copy of the decree divorcing her from her first husband, which proves that the divorce came after the second marriage.  But the trial court says the divorce decree is not proof that first husband was then alive.  Because Husband did not prove that wife was not a widow before she became a second wife, the trial court granted a divorce rather than annulment.

The Hawai'i Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for a new trial.  The court notes that the divorce decree had the effect of shifting the burden of proof to Wife to show that her first husband was not alive or not married to her at the time of her second marriage.   The court's opinion cites a range of annulment-for-bigamy cases from other states from Kansas in 1885 to South Carolina in 2004. 

Tagupa v. Tagupa, 2005 Haw. App. LEXIS 383 (September 15, 2005)
Opinion on the web at (last visited September 19, 2005 bgf)


For annulments of more star-studded litigants, you can read about Brittany Spear's annulment of her hours-long marriage (for impetuousness as best as I can read the court's decision) or perhaps you'd like to see the petition for annulment of the day-long Dennis Rodman/Carmen Electra marriage (on the grounds of "unsound mind") or maybe you'd prefer to hear actress Renee Zellweger and country singer Kenny Chesney's talk about their planned annulment of their 5-month marriage (on the grounds of fraud - "but it's just legal language").

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