An annulment is a legal termination of a marriage that places the two parties back in the same position they were in before the marriage. Once an annulment is complete, it is as though the two were never bound legally. Essentially, the effect of an annulment is to restore the parties to their lives before marriage. Thus, the parties will retain all property they owned when enter into the marriage.

Who Qualifies for an annulment?

The couple must have specific reasons for why they are seeking an annulment.The following are the only scenarios that qualifies a marriage for an annulment:

  • Fraud (fraud covers a wide range of situations. If you are unsure if your case falls within the lines of fruad, a LegalMatch family law attorny is avaible to help.);
  • Underage age marriage;
  • Incest;
  • Bigamy; 
  • Mental competency; 
  • Forced consent;
  • A partner’s unwillingness to consummate a marriage; and 
  • Misrepresentation. 

How Soon Should I Seek an Annulment?

Most couples seek an annulment not long after getting married.  However, there is no set time for when an annulment can be sought. This means that the marriage could’ve have been for a few months or years. However, keep in mind the time frame will affect the way the courts divide the property, assets, and debts acquired between the parties during the marriage. This is discussed in more detail below.

Is the Couple Still Bound to Legal Contacts?

Depending on the type of contract signed during marriage, the parties may still be bound to the terms and conditions once the annulment is finalized. For example, while an annulment releases the parties from the terms of a prenuptial agreement, any joint contract signed together for loans are still in place. 

An annulment only severs the marriage contract, not incidental outside legal contract formed as a result of the marriage. Thus, if the couple purchased a building together as a result of their marital status and they both signed the mortgage for the building, they are still responsible for the payments. 

What Is the Difference Between Community Property vs. Equitable Division?

Community property laws do not apply to annulments. These laws consider any all the assets, properties and debt both parties acquired individually during the marriage the responsibility and property of both spouses. 

There are only nine community property states: Wisconsin, Louisiana, Arizona, California, Texas, Washington, Idaho, Nevada and New Mexico. All other states are equitable division states.

Equitable division states divides all assets, property and debts as fairly as possible. For example, If a couple is married in an equitable division state and one of the spouses purchased stocks solely in their name during the marriage, upon divorce these stock would belong only to the spouse that purchased them.

What Happens to Debt Created for the Benefit of One Spouse by the Other?

Although state laws for annulment differ, the court will more than likely divide debts like this that was taken on by a spouse on behalf of the other equally. Essentially, an annulment’s purpose is to restore the original balance fairly. Although, an annulment does not follow community property rules, this debt will be traced back to both parties. There is no definitive yes or no for this question, because the judge will ultimately decide what is fair.

What Is the Difference Between an Annulment and a Divorce?

Both an annulment and divorce disunites the marriage, but the long-term effect are different. As mentioned above, an annulment places the parties in the position they were in before marriage. Unlike a divorce which stays on the parties records, only the paperwork filed to get the annulment stay on the court records. 

Basically, there is a record of the court filing for the annulment, but it does not follow you on your personal records like a divorce. Additionally, all property is given back to the original owner and the former spouse has no right to a portion of property clearly traceable to the other. 

However, the longer the couple is married, the more likely they are to acquire joint/ community property. This makes it harder for the court to trace the property to the owner. Community and joint property would be any assets the couple purchased together; joint assets and debts accumulated during the marriage are divided equally. On the other hand, in some states a divorce will consider all property acquired during the marriage community property no matter how it is labeled by the couple. 

Does an Annulment Allow Post-Financial Support?

When the marriage is invalidated, all other financial obligations outside of child support would not exist. Thus, a former spouse does not have to pay spousal support. As mentioned above, an annulment does not reverse the obligation of child support. Any child conceived by the parties is still entitled to support. 

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with an Annulment?

Keep in mind annulments are not identical. This means that courts in different jurisdictions do not always reach the same outcome. 

Depending on the states where the marriage took place, the parties may be subject to a set of state laws for annulments. This is why it is important to speak with a family law attorney when the circumstances are complex. An attorney can help guide you during the annulment process so your rights are protected.