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If you are in an unhappy marriage, it's no secret that an attorney can help end the relationship. Surprisingly, divorce is not the only option. Under certain circumstances, an unhappy spouse can get the marriage annulled. An annulment, unlike a divorce, is a legal proceeding which completely voids records of your marriage. An annulment declares that the marriage license never should have been legally recognized and, therefore, any wedding held under that license should be declared invalid.
Grounds for Annulment
Annulments are adjudicated if the marriage was entered into fraudulently. An attorney can help you explore the various grounds for annulling a marriage, but they include:
- Mental incapability (including inability due to drugs or alcohol)
- Withheld information that may have changed the willingness of a party to marry (inability to have children, criminal record, sexual disease or existing marriage)
- One spouse entered the marriage without the ability to consent
- One spouse was forced to marry
- More information available on a state by state basis
Circumstances Versus Length
Legal annulments usually occur when parties are married briefly. However, under current marriage laws, it is possible to obtain an annulment even if you have been married several years. Our best advice is to speak to an attorney with experience in working with the circumstances that allow annulment in your state.
An annulment does not recognize the validity of the marriage so marital property and alimony interests are more limited. One caveat is that, if the marriage produced children, both parents are recognized by the court. As you can imagine, this produces extremely unique challenges that bring issues of child custody and visitation rights into play. For those at this stage, an annulment attorney is surely involved.
Annulment and the Catholic Church
For Catholics, a legal divorce is not necessarily the end of a marriage. For a person to be married, divorce and re-marry in the Church, the Catholic Church itself needs you to be both legally divorced and freed from what they view as a lifetime covenant that is above the law. Only the Church has the power to wipe away this covenant. Therefore, in addition to the divorce, a practicing Roman Catholic should pursue the nullification of their marriage by their local diocese. An attorney may be able to advise you on such matters, but is unlikely to intercede on your behalf.
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