An annulment is different from a dissolution of marriage or a legal separation. An annulment does not seek to divorce or separate parties to a marriage; rather, it seeks a legal determination that the parties were never legally married from the outset.
There are two main bases for seeking an annulment. In some cases, the marriage simply could not be deemed to have taken place. This can be the case where one or both of the parties could not legally enter into a marriage, such as a situation in which one of the parties was already married to another person at the time of ceremony. Another situation might be where the officiant conducting the ceremony was not ordained or otherwise had no legal right to marry the couple. But if there are minor irregularities in the performance of the officiant’s duties they may be considered ministerial acts that are not important enough to invalidate the formation of a marital relationship. Another situation might be where the couple got married in a destination wedding in a foreign country and did not follow proper procedures to ensure that the marriage ceremony was legal and recognized. Another aspect of annulment can occur when one spouse contends that he or she was somehow tricked into entering into marriage with the other person through fraud or misrepresentation. Generally, the test is whether the petitioning spouse can prove that the fraudulent representation alleged is so significant that, had it not been made, the he or she would not have gone forward with the marriage ceremony. It is up to the court to determine if the misrepresentation was significant enough to prevent the formation of a valid marriage.
After engaging a wedding ceremony, parties are presumed to be married. Third parties of all kinds rely on this presumption, including insurers, pension managers, lenders and credit issuing companies, and governmental agencies ranging from taxing authorities to agencies that manage governmental benefits to those that maintain records of real estate ownership. Any claims for annulment or that there was any invalidity in the formation of a marital relationship is a very serious matter that should be property handled in judicial proceedings.
What happens if a petition for annulment is denied?
When an action for annulment is brought, it is up to the court determine whether the strict legal requirements have been met sufficient to determine that a valid marriage never occurred. If the court rules that those legal requirements have not been met, either of the parties still has the option to seek a dissolution of marriage or a legal separation.
Victor Garnice can discuss these matters with you and help determine if you have adequate grounds for annulment and what other options may be available to you. Call the office and let’s talk about your options and prospects.