Legal Invalidation of a Marriage
Annulment (also referred to as “nullity” outside the U.S.) is a means of “erasing” a marriage so that legally, it never existed. Although this process is rarely used anymore, there are certain circumstances that render a marriage invalid, meaning that the marriage was never legal in the first place.
When one or more of these conditions are present, one or both of the parties can petition the court to annul the marriage. Unlike a divorce, annulment does not address any property distribution or spousal support. Instead, both parties will part as if the marriage had never taken place – what’s his is his and what’s hers is hers. There are no future obligations between the spouses, unless the couple had a child in which case child support, custody, and visitation would need to be addressed.
To successfully seek an annulment, you must file your request with the court within a certain amount of time. This time frame will depend upon a couple of different factors – where you live, the reason for the annulment, and when you first discovered the condition that renders your marriage invalid.
For example, if a couple is seeking an annulment on the basis that one of the parties defrauded the other, the court would want to know when the fraud was first discovered. If the spouse being deceived discovered the fraud but then continued in the marriage for a considerable time after, the court would be less likely to grant an annulment and the couple would have to seek a traditional divorce instead.