An annulment, as opposed to a divorce, is a lawsuit that is brought by one party against another when there is a legal impediment to the creation of a valid marriage. Texas law provides for a set of enumerated grounds that would serve as the basis for an annulment. Where there is a marriage that is subject to an annulment, it is considered voidable. The effect of an annulment is such that the marriage never existed in the first place. If a suit for annulment is not granted, then the presumed marriage will be considered valid indefinitely, or until a suit for divorce is granted.
As previously stated, there are several grounds in which one can seek an annulment of his or her marriage:
- Underage Marriage – The court may grant an annulment of a marriage of a person 16 years of age or older but under 18 years of age that occurred without parental consent or without a court order. Under the law, a minor can get marriage only if Texas or another state has granted a court order removing the person’s disabilities of minority for general purposes. An underage marriage that does not comport with the requirements can be declared void.
- Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol – A court may grant an annulment of a marriage if the party seeking the annulment was under the influence of alcoholic beverages or narcotics at the time of the marriage, and as result, lacked the mental compacity to consent to the marriage, and has not voluntarily cohabitated with his or her spouse since the effects of the alcoholic beverages or narcotics ended. The degree of intoxication must be that the person seeking the annulment was so drunk to have lost all reason, memory, and judgment so as to impair his or mental facilities while consenting to the marriage.
- Impotency – A court may grant an annulment of a marriage if either party was permanently impotent at the time of the marriage, for physical or mental reasons, the person seeking the annulment did not know of the impotency at the time of the marriage, and the person seeking the annulment has not voluntarily cohabitated with his or her spouse since learning of the impotency.
- Fraud, Duress, or Force – A court may grant an annulment of a marriage if the spouse used fraud, dress, or force to induce the person seeking the annulment into the marriage, and the person seeking the annulment has not voluntarily cohabitated with his or her spouse since learning of the fraud or being released from the duress or force.
- Mental Incapacity – A court may grant an annulment of a marriage if, at the time of the marriage, the person seeking an annulment did not have the mental capacity to consent to the marriage or to understand the nature of the marriage ceremony due to mental disease or defect, and since the marriage ceremony, the person seeking the annulment has not voluntarily cohabitated with his or her spouse since while the person seeking the annulment possessed the mental incapacity to recognize the marriage relationship. A spouse can also seek an annulment based on the mental incapacity of the other spouse at the time of the marriage.
- Concealed Divorce – A court may grant an annulment of a marriage if the other spouse divorced a third party within 30 days before the date of marrying the person seeking the annulment, and at the time of the marriage ceremony, the person seeking the annulment did not know, and a reasonable person would not have known, of the divorce, and since the person seeking the annulment discovered the previous divorce, he or she did not voluntarily cohabitate with the other spouse. A suit for an annulment based on these grounds must also be brought before the first anniversary of the marriage. It some circumstances, it is also possible for a future spouse to request a Court to waive the 30-day waiting requirement to remarry.
- Marriage Less Than 72 Hours After Issuance of License – A court may grant an annulment of a ceremonial marriage that is conducted within 72 hours after the future spouses have obtained their marriage license. In general, parties to be married must wait 72 hours after obtaining the marriage license to conduct the ceremonial marriage. In extremely limited circumstances, it is possible for future spouses to request a Court to waive the 72-hour waiting requirement to marry.
As set forth, the law provides for a specific set of causes in which one can seek an annulment. It is important to work alongside a family law practitioner who is able to assist with filing for an annulment. A Petition for Annulment of Marriage must be drafted specifically and contains different requests than a typical Petition for Divorce would. It is also imperative to seek the guidance of a family law practitioner who can facilitate obtaining proper evidence and navigate legal strategy in an effort to have the annulment granted, or even to defend against the annulment. A family law attorney can best prepare a spouse as to potential legal procedure including but not limited to, gathering evidence, preparing for trial and testimony, and conducting trial over the issue of an annulment if need be. In some circumstances, the law provides that a party seeking an annulment in entitled to a trial by jury. If trial is necessary to establish the annulment, a family law attorney will know whether a jury trial is in the spouse’s best interest.
It is especially important to seek the assistance of a family law attorney when there are children of the spouses who are involved in an annulment proceeding. Often times, the Court will address all issues related to the children of the parties aside from the issue of whether an annulment shall be granted. Deciding the child-issues can involve an entirely separate lawsuit and process.
Although an annulment may be granted in one spouse’s favor, the Court still retains broad discretion to decide issues regarding division of property accumulated by the spouses and any children involved in the matter. Preparing a suit for annulment should also involve discussions surrounding the property owned and acquired. A Court may still award property to one spouse or the other.
An annulment can be a contentious topic for spouses in which one spouse believes a marriage exists and the other does not. Preparing a suit for annulment should require the assistance of a family attorney who can navigate the legal process, especially because the law is adamant as to what is required to prove one’s grounds for an annulment. One should seek legal representation to better understand the procedure and effects of deciding to file a suit for an annulment.
The Skillern Firm, lead by Board-Certified Family Law Attorney, Matthew A. Skillern, is here to assist you navigate your situation and answer any questions you may have. To discuss your particular situation with a Houston family lawyer, call our office at (713) 229-8855 to speak with one of our experienced family lawyers.
* At Skillern Firm, we pride ourselves on the results we have achieved for those we help. We stand ready to assist you with any of your Family Law needs. Contact us today. https://www.skillernfirm.com/