It’s normal to have questions about when faced with an annulment, especially if everything seems to be happening suddenly or is initiated by your partner. Some of your questions might include:
- Is it easier or cheaper to end a marriage with an annulment than a divorce?
- Do annulments and divorces have varying religious consequences?
- Are annulments only granted in short-term marriages without children?
- What are the advantages to an annulment versus a divorce?
- What qualifies a marriage for annulment in Utah?
- Why is divorce more common than annulment?
There are reasons why divorces are more common than annulments. However, annulment is an option for ending a marriage or domestic partnership, and it may apply to you and your situation.
Ending a marriage is a legal process that can be complicated. If you are faced with ending your marriage or partnership, consulting a family law specialist for legal advice will help you have confidence in your choices and smooth out some of the bumps in the road. Your situation is unique and involves personal circumstances that need to be taken into account.
What is an annulment?
One of the first questions to ask, when ending a marriage, is whether to pursue a divorce or an annulment. Both divorces and annulments are legal processes that involve filing documentation with a family court or judge.
Annulment (nullification) is a legal procedure in which a court declares a marriage null and void. Basically, an annulment means that the marriage never had the right to exist in the first place.
Annulment is applicable when there’s a so-called ‘legal defect’ in the union that existed at the time the marriage took place. For example, if one spouse was still married to someone else when they entered the marriage, then the second marriage carries a legal defect (because it is illegal for a married person to marry another person at the same time).
What are examples of marriages that qualify for annulment?
- Bigamy – A marriage that involves one or more parties who are legally married to someone else.
- Age – A marriage that involves one or more parties younger than the legal marrying age at the time of the marriage. Since 1999, the legal age to marry in Utah has been 16 years old. Previous to 1999, the legal age to marry in Utah was 14.
- Parental Consent if Under 18 – A marriage qualifies for annulment if one or both the parties is under the age of 18 and the parents of either party did not give parental consent to marry.
- Duress – A marriage that involves one spouse under duress. Evidence that the spouse was forced into the marriage under duress would need to be produced for the court.
- Mental Incapacity – A marriage involves a partner who was mentally incompacitated at the time of the marriage. Examples include addiction, severe intoxication, mental disabilities, dementia, etc.
- Fraud – A marriage that is based on fraud. If one of the parties has misled the other in significant ways, this marriage may have grounds for annulment.
- Sibling Relationship – If partners are found to be siblings.
Because marriage annulments apply in a smaller subset of cases than divorce, annulments are less common than divorce. Annulments have implications for the division of property and often involve less (or no) alimony or child support. However, there can be legal grounds for an annulment even in cases where a couple shares property, debt, and children.
Most states have laws determining the time limit for filing for an annulment after a marriage is legalized. In Utah, however, there is no time limit for filing for a marriage annulment as long as the other requirements for annulment are in place.
How do I file for an annulment?
Filing for an annulment is similar to filing for a divorce. A petition must be filed with a local family court. The petition is a legal document that includes necessary information such as grounds for the annulment and the property or children involved. The other spouse has a chance to respond. The annulment is final when the court grants an annulment order, which can be compared to a divorce order.
What are the advantages of annulment over divorce?
It is a common misconception that annulments have religious advantages over a divorce. Actually, a legal annulment may not be recognized by your religion at all, depending on your religion.
Many religions have well-established definitions for divorce and annulment. However, the religious definitions and processes do not necessarily overlap or align with the legal definitions and processes. Someone who receives a religious annulment still needs a legal annulment, and vice versa.
To find out whether you will have permission to marry again within your religion after a divorce or an annulment, you would need to confer with a religious authority rather than a Salt Lake area divorce lawyer. A legal annulment does not signify a religious annulment in many religions.
Advantages of an annulment may include avoiding the mandatory waiting period for divorce and a simpler division of assets. The mandatory waiting period for divorce varies from state to state. Utah has a relatively short waiting period of 30 days.