Sometimes, a couple that has been living as a married couple will find out that their marriage is not in fact valid. If a marriage is found to be invalid, or void, the court may grant an annulment instead of a divorce.
A marriage may be invalid if:
A marriage that is void is one that is invalid from the time it occurred and will be treated as though it never existed. If a marriage is void, it may be annulled upon the death of an alleged spouse. Any third party, including a government entity, may challenge a marriage as being void. All states hold the following marriages to be void marriages: incest, polygamy, bigamy, and sham marriages. Some states hold the following marriages to be void marriages: underage and same-sex marriage.
A marriage that is voidable is one that can be annulled if it is challenged, but if neither party challenges it, then it will remain valid. Unlike void marriages, a marriage can only be voidable if one of the spouses challenges the legitimacy of the marriage. All states hold the following marriages to be voidable: marriage by fraud, marriage by proxy, marriage by duress, and marriage where at least one spouse is incapacitated. Some states hold the following marriages to be voidable: underage.
In most cases, if your marriage is void and the court grants an annulment, you and your former spouse are free to go your separate ways, with no legal obligation toward one another. That means no alimony and/or child support will be granted.
Voidable marriages, on the other hand, are still subject to alimony and/or child support. If your marriage is annulled due to duress, fraud, proxy, or one of the partners couldn’t give consent to the union, then spousal or child support may still be granted. Although the marriage legally never existed, courts still recognize that one "spouse" might have mislead and/or wronged the other "spouse." In those cases, the spouse who deceived the other spouse will be liable for that deception.
If you had a good-faith belief that your marriage was entirely valid, you are a putative spouse. You may still possess a number of the rights that you would have if your marriage was in fact valid. Though the laws vary from state to state, most jurisdictions will protect the putative spouse. In such cases, the court may require divorce proceedings in order to dissolve the marriage, and the normal rules governing property division will apply.
If you wish to get out of an invalid marriage, or if you have recently found out that your marriage is not valid and you believed that it was, you should contact a family lawyer. He or she will be able to assert and protect your rights.
Last Modified: 04-10-2018 10:45 PM PDTLaw Library Disclaimer
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