How to Get Your Marriage Annulled

How to Get Your Marriage Annulled

by Ronna L. DeLoe, Esq., August 2017

A common misconception is that if you want to get divorced, you have the choice to have your marriage annulled instead. This is not true in most cases, even if you've only been married for a little while.

In fact, when it comes to annulment vs. divorce, divorce is easier because all states have no-fault divorce. Grounds for annulment are quite specific, and you must prove them if you want your marriage annulled.

Why Would You Get an Annulment Instead of a Divorce?

An advantage to having a legally annulled marriage—as opposed to a church-based religious annulment, which is something entirely different—is that if you get an annulment, it's as if you were never married. The marriage ends as if it never existed and, in some states, property is not divided. If there are children of the marriage and significant property, your state may require division of property and a custody determination. You'll want to check to see if your state requires this.

If you're making more money than your spouse, you may want an annulment because there's usually no alimony in an annulled marriage. Your spouse, however, could be awarded temporary alimony during the annulment process.

If you'd rather not say you're divorced, which is still a stigma in certain religions, you may want to get your marriage annulled. You still, however, must have grounds for annulment. Luckily, even if you get an annulment, any children of the marriage are still legitimate, and your children's father is still the legal father.

What Are the Grounds for Annulment?

To have a marriage annulled, you'll have to prove one of the grounds for annulment. If none of these grounds exist, then you can't have the marriage annulled. The annulment requirements in most states mean you must show one of the following:

  • Fraud or misrepresentation. The spouse seeking the annulment must have relied on this fraud or misrepresentation at the time of the marriage. Some examples are:
    • Getting married just to get a green card
    • Alleging you can legally consent to marriage when that's not true
    • Alleging you're able to have children when you can't
    • Alleging you want children when you don't
    • Alleging you're not married to someone else when you are.
  • A spouse couldn't consent to the marriage because of mental incapacity, use of drugs, or use of alcohol. These show that the spouse was not of sound mind at the time of the marriage or that he didn't understand the significance of what he was doing.
  • A spouse cannot consummate the marriage, such as being unable or refusing to have intercourse, and the other spouse was unaware of this.
  • A spouse was under the age of consent and didn't have permission from parents, guardians, or a court to get married.
  • Coercion to marry by force or by threat of force.
  • The marriage occurred as the result of a joke or a dare.
  • The marriage is void due to bigamy or polygamy.
  • The marriage is void due to incest. Some states allow marriages between cousins but not between first cousins.
  • Concealment of major issues. Some examples include your spouse's having:
    • A substance abuse or alcohol addiction
    • A felony conviction
    • Children from a prior relationship (that you didn't know about)
    • Mental health issues
    • A sexually transmittable disease

Is There a Statute of Limitations for Getting an Annulled Marriage?

In some states, a marriage annulment timeframe doesn't exist. You can file for annulment at any time in these states, although the sooner you file, the better. Other states, however, have specific time limits. For example, Colorado requires you to file for annulment within six months after you discover duress, fraud, a dare, mental illness, substance abuse, or alcohol abuse.

Additionally, spouses in Colorado must seek annulment within one year of discovering the other spouse is sexually unable to consummate the marriage. Underage spouses have two years to get an annulled marriage in Colorado.

What Is the Cost of Annulment?

The marriage annulment cost is often less than a divorce unless your spouse contests the annulment. If so, like a divorce, the cost will increase because there will be additional court appearances. Costs are always changing, as are filing fees, but you can often get your marriage annulled for a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

Do You Need to Have a Hearing to Get an Annulled Marriage?

In some states, if your spouse agrees to an annulment, you may not have to go to court. An annulment in California, however, usually requires a hearing. Check with your county clerk to see if your state requires a hearing.