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Annulment is a commonly known term for nullification of a marriage. Annulment is the process by which a Court states that a marriage never legally existed.

An annulment is based on mental illness, fraud, forced to approve, physical not capable to consummate the marriage, lack of consent to underage marriage or bigamy.

Children of a marriage annulled for bigamy or mental illness are legitimate. In annulment cases, the court may award custody of children of the marriage and require payment of child support and support of a party. Annulment is different from divorce.

Annulment grounds are limited to fraud, bigamy and insanity. There are specific legal tests to meet these criteria. Either the husband or the wife may apply to the Court for the annulment of a marriage if either party can show any of the following:

  • Elements for Nullification: The other spouse had another husband or wife living at the time of the marriage.
  • Either spouse age was younger than sixteen at the time of the marriage and didn’t have a court approval.
  • Either spouse age was sixteen or seventeen at the time of the marriage and did not have parental approval, as long as the annulment action is filed within 60 days after the marriage ceremony.
  • Either spouse was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the marriage, as long as the annulment action is filed within 60 days after the marriage ceremony.
  • Either spouse was mentally incompetent or unable to approve at the time of the marriage.
  • One of the spouses was threatened or forced to get married.
  • One of them agreed to be married based on dishonest statements or actions by the other spouse.
  • One of them was physically and incurably impotent at the time of the marriage, unless the other spouse knew about the impotence before the marriage.

The marriage is one that is prohibited by law due to the relationship between the parties. Grounds for annulment may be set forth by statute or, in many jurisdictions, common-law grounds suffice.

The specific grounds at common law are:

  • Undisclosed prior marriage: This occurs when a marriage is entered into by one party still married to third person. Many jurisdictions allow annulment even if the party seeking the annulment knew that the person he/she was marrying had not been legally divorced or was denied the right to remarry after divorce.
  • Violation of divorce decree or statute barring remarriage: Some regulations prohibit remarriage after divorce or within a certain time period after divorce or remarriage to a particular person. Violation of such regulation set grounds for annulment.
  • Mock marriage or trial marriage: It simply means that marriage entered into with intention that it should not be binding. The majority rule states that a party to the marriage may seek annulment in a court of equity where the marriage results from levity, jest, no intention to bind or enter into relationship, or no intention to assume rights or responsibilities of marriage. Annulment makes the marriage void. An agreement to enter into a trial marriage where either party by agreement has the option to annul the marriage ceremony is performed “in jest.” Where persons agree to marry to accomplish a desired objective (for example, legitimization of a child) the majority of courts will regard the marriage as valid and will not annul on this basis.
  • Under age of consent: The people who are not of legal age to approve at the time of marriage is generally conferred by jurisdiction. Some courts hold these statutes applicable even where residents of the state go to another state, have the ceremony performed, and immediately return to their former residence, although the marriage was valid where performed. Other courts hold that if the marriage was permissible under the law of the state where the ceremony was performed, it will not be annulled by courts of the residents of the parties. Under most statutes, non-age does not itself constitute an absolute right to an annulment. The court may have discretion and the marriage remains valid for all civil purposes until a judicial decree of annulment is issued. Where the marriage is void by statute, the court retains no discretion.
  • Proxy marriage: Some states recognises a proxy marriage even absent statutory authority. Other states do not recognise them other than as common-law marriage when followed by cohabitation and repute. A husband in the military may annul a proxy marriage if there is no consummation, no cohabitation, or no treatment as husband and wife after the marriage ceremony.
  • Blood relationship; incestuous marriages are marriage between: parents and grandchildren, grandparents and grandchildren, brothers and sisters of half or whole blood, uncles and nieces of half or whole blood, aunts and nephews of half or whole blood, and first cousins of half or whole blood. A court may annul an incestuous marriage at request of either party to the marriage even though the applicant may have knowingly entered the marriage arrangement. However, courts of one state cannot, at the suit of either party, annul a marriage which was valid under the laws of another state on the ground that the marriage is contrary to resident state’s laws regarding blood relationship marriages.
  • Mental incapacity: Courts examine whether any incapacity existed at the time of the marriage and if a court finds the fact affirmative, the marriage may be annulled as void from the point of the judicial decree of nullity entered. There remains a split of authority as to whether concealment of one’s mental incapacity warrants annulment of the marriage. Where concealment does provide a ground for annulment, the following factors are considered:
    • whether affected spouse had knowledge of the actual condition and its seriousness, intent to deceive, and absence of ratification by the innocent spouse after having learned the facts.
    • Temporary insanity: If temporary or periodic insanity is claimed, the condition at the time of marriage governs whether or not capacity to marry was present. A marriage will not be annulled if entered into during a lucid interval. The degree of mental incapacity is necessary to ground an annulment incapacity sufficient to deprive a party of an understanding of the duties and relationship of marriage. Mere weakness of intellect remains insufficient. Intoxication: The complaining party must show intoxication at the marriage ceremony to such a degree as to render that person incapable of knowing the nature of the marriage contract and its consequences. An action for an annulment must be started by a certain time. The time limit depends on the type of marriage. The shortest time to start an annulment is 4 years after the marriage.

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