Definition of Annulment:
It is a legal procedure within secular and religious legal systems for declaring a marriage null and void. Unlike divorce, it is usually retroactive, meaning that an annulled marriage is considered to be invalid from the beginning almost as if it had never taken place.
A marriage can be ended in two ways legally. It is either through a divorce or annulment. The latter means the cancellation of marriage between the parties so much so that it means that marriage never existed at all. It declares that the marriage never technically existed and was never valid.
A divorce, which is the legal dissolution of a marriage, is the termination of a valid marriage between a man and a woman. It means both the parties return to single status and can remarry. While every state in the US has its own laws regarding grounds for marriage annulment or divorce, some requirements are relevant nationwide.
Who can seek annulment of marriage?
The case for annulment can be initiated either by the husband or the wife in the marriage. The party seeking annulment should establish that there are reasonable grounds for it and if proven, the court will consider the marriage to be null and void.
Here’s what is on the list of common grounds for annulment:
- Bigamy – either of the party to the marriage was already married to another person during the subsistence of the marriage.
- Forced Consent – Either of the spouses was forced or threatened into marriage and agreed to it under duress.
- Fraud – one of the spouses agreed to the marriage based on the lies or misrepresentation of the other.
- Marriage Prohibited By Law – marriage between parties based on their familial relationship is considered incestuous and can be annulled.
- Mental Illness – either spouse was mentally ill or emotionally disturbed during the time of the marriage.
- Mental Incapacity – either spouse was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the marriage and was not able to make informed consent.
- Failure to Consummate Marriage – either spouse was physically unable to have sexual relations or was impotent during the marriage.
- Underage Marriage – either spouse was not of legal age to enter into marriage and had done so without parental consent or court approval.
Want to get your marriage annulled?
Let’s check out if you are eligible for it in the State of Maryland.
Check with the circuit court in the county where you and your spouse reside to know if you meet the requirements for annulment. Also, know what its effects are.
Outline of Annulment
As mentioned earlier, an annulment is different from a divorce. While a divorce ends a marriage; annulment means there was no valid marriage and it never existed. Mostly, an annulment is preferred over divorce for social or religious reasons. Marriages that have been invalid from the date of marriage, are eligible for an annulment.
Where additional requirements are necessary for annulment:
In cases where a party is alleging that he or she was coerced into marriage, then the actual coercion should have taken place during the wedding ceremony.
Further, the spouse must be in fear of some great bodily harm. Maryland courts have annulled a marriage when there was a “shotgun wedding,” wherein the wife’s family threatened to shoot the husband if he did not marry her.
If a spouse wants the marriage to be annulled for fraud, the fraud should be connected to the vital elements of the marriage. It is not enough that one spouse lied about such as his or her financial status, lifestyle, temper or character. For fraud to be a basis to annul a marriage, it should affect the health or welfare of the parties or the children born of the marriage. Also note that not revealing a previous marriage and divorce will not be grounds to annul a marriage, but hiding prior mental illness would be enough to annul a marriage. A wife hiding that she is pregnant by another man at the time of marriage is also a ground for annulment.
If there was a marriage because one spouse coerced or defrauded the other, and the innocent spouse continued to cohabit with the other spouse after the fraud was discovered, then marriage can no longer be annulled.
How to get a marriage annulled in Maryland?
In Maryland, you will have to file a “Complaint for Annulment” in the circuit court of the county where you and your spouse live. If both spouses do not live in Maryland, one spouse needs to have lived in Maryland for at least 12 months. It is best to check out with the clerk at the circuit court for a sample complaint from your county for annulment.
The spouse filing for annulment is known as the “plaintiff” in the complaint, and the other spouse defending it will be the “defendant.”
When filing a complaint for annulment, you will need to mention the date of the marriage and the city, county, and state where you were married. The complaint should also list the names and birthdates of any children born during the marriage. Also, you need to state the legal ground that makes your marriage eligible to be annulled. In some cases, the parties may want the court to decide custody, child support, visitation, alimony or division of property. Then you need to state that in your complaint as well.
After you file your complaint with your local circuit court, you need to serve your spouse with a copy of it. You can know the options to serve the complaint to the souse from the clerk at your circuit court. It is possible to serve your spouse even if you can’t find them or they live out of state.
Before the marriage is annulled, you will have to testify at a hearing in front of a judge. It doesn’t matter if your spouse agrees that the annulment should be granted. If you are seeking an annulment, then the burden of proof is on you to prove on what grounds the marriage can be annulled. An annulment can be granted only if there is clear evidence that the legal grounds for annulment exist. If there is convincing evidence, your marriage may be annulled.
Consequences of an Annulment
When a marriage is annulled, it means there was never a marriage at all. Both spouses can say that they were never married to each other.
In Maryland, though marriage is annulled, the judge can still decide issues like custody, visitation, child support, alimony and attorney’s fees just like as in a divorce. The court can also divide any property the spouses have, including bank accounts, pensions, and retirement accounts.
What if there are children born out of the marriage?
A marriage can be annulled even if children are born during the marriage. In Maryland, children of an annulled marriage are considered legitimate unless proved that the husband is not the father of the children. When a child is declared legitimate, both parents have the duty to financially support the child.