Annulment of a marriage is a declaration by a court that the marriage was never legally valid in the first place. This differs from a divorce because a divorce occurs when a legally valid marriage is terminated. Since the two are very different conceptually, they can have very different results with respect to the property rights of the parties.
What Does It Mean If a Marriage Is Void?
If a marriage is void, theoretically, there has been no change in the legal status of the property of either “spouse”. Annulments are usually (but not always) granted a very short time after the marriage, so it is often fairly easy for a court to determine who owns what. In such a case, a court will do whatever is possible to restore the parties to the positions they occupied before the marriage.
Does the Length of Time of the Marriage Affect the Division of Assets?
If a marriage is annulled after a longer period of time, things become more complicated, especially if there are children involved. If a void marriage has gone on for some time, the couple has probably accumulated a significant amount of property that they did not have before the marriage, and determining who is entitled to various pieces of property can be difficult. If possible, a court will try to trace the property back to its original purpose, and determine which spouse bought it. If this is not possible, a court will do whatever it can to divide the property fairly while attempting to put the spouses in the position they occupied before the marriage, or as close to that position as possible. This leaves a court with a great deal of discretion in the matter.
If a void marriage has gone on for a long time, a court might also award temporary alimony, and child support. If one “spouse” depended on the other for financial support, and the marriage is annulled, temporary alimony might be granted in order to restore that spouse to the position they occupied before the marriage. However, this alimony is only temporary and will eventually be terminated. Child support is granted to prevent innocent third parties (the children) from being punished for the illicit conduct of the spouses.
Should I contact an Attorney about My Annulment and the Division of Assets?
An annulment can be a difficult process, further complicated by any assets you are your spouse may share. It is recommended that you contact an experienced family law attorney to help you determine what your rights and liabilities may be once your marriage is annulled.