Annulment terminates a marriage just as in a divorce proceeding. However, unlike a divorce, an annulled marriage returns the couple to their prior status before the marriage.  With an annulment, it is as if the marriage never happened in the eyes of the law. A marriage must be void or voidable under law in order for it to be annulled. Valid marriages must go through divorce proceedings.


When Can a Spouse File for an Annulment?

The spouses have to be legally married in order to file for an annulment. The annulment action must be filed within 60 days after the marriage ceremony. The annulment procedure is similar to that of a standard divorce.


In an annulment proceeding, a court will consider the various facts leading to annulment, such as whether the marriage was based on coercion or fraud, or if one of the spouses was underage. Two of the most common issues in a marriage annulment are the effects of the annulment on the couple’s children and property.   

How Does Annulment Affect the Children of the Couple?

If the couple seeking annulment had children during their marriage, they will usually have to go through the same procedures regarding the children as in a divorce proceeding. 

This means that the court will have to award custody to the parents according to the “best interests of the child” standard. A formal court order will also have to be issued in order to address other concerns such as child support and visitation schedules.     

Annulment proceedings may involve additional paperwork with regards to the couple’s children. For example, some states require the children’s parentage to be legally established before custody is awarded. Also, there may be restrictions on the father’s rights based on the timing of the birth.

Even though an annulled marriage is treated as if it never existed, children born during the couple’s marriage are still considered to be legitimate under law. This may have several effects later on life, for example with regards to the child’s citizenship rights or inheritance rights. 

What Effect Does Annulment Have on Property?

In general, an annulment has the effect of returning the parties to the original property status that existed before the marriage.  Thus, if one of the partners owned a house before getting married, they will still own the house in full after the annulment.  The other partner will have no legal rights to the house because legally it is as if the couple never entered into a marriage contract.

An annulment terminates any legal protections that were available to either spouse during the marriage.  After the annulment neither spouse will be able to share in any of the other’s property.  They will also not be able to inherit from the other partner upon death, since they will not be treated as a spouse under inheritance laws.  Annulments are usually 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

Under some circumstances many states do perform a division of property and debts, especially if the couple has been married for several years or decades.  In these situations, the division of assets will be executed according to the divorce laws of that particular state or jurisdiction.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for an Annulment?

If you will be filing for an annulment of marriage, it is in your best interest to contact a family law lawyer for advice and representation. There are many factors that need to be considered in any annulment proceeding, regardless of the duration of the marriage. You should hire an attorney especially if you anticipate issues regarding children or property. Your lawyer will be able to advise you according to the laws governing annulment, which may vary widely according to location.