What is an annulment?
An annulment is a declaration by the court that a marriage was not valid. Upon a decree of annulment, the marriage will be treated as if it did not exist.
What are the effects of an annulment?
If your marriage is annulled, then you will return to the status you had before the marriage. For example, if you owned a home in your name before you were married, you will return to being the sole owner. It will not be considered marital property and your former spouse will not have any rights to it. Likewise, you will not inherit from a spouse if your marriage is annulled. It will be as if you were never married at all.
However, there is one exception to note. Children born to a marriage that is subsequently annulled will still be considered legitimate in that the former husband will still be assumed to be the father. Even if you are granted the annulment, the court will decide custody, visitation and child support issues separately.
Am I eligible for an annulment?
There are very specific grounds for getting an annulment in Arkansas. An annulment is available when either one of the parties was not capable of consenting to the marriage because:
- One or both of the parties were too young to legally get married;
- One or both of the parties were mentally unable to understand and consent to the marriage;
- One or both the parties were incapable of entering into the marriage state due to physical causes;
- Consent to marry was obtained through fraud; or
- Consent to marry was obtained through force.
The most common ground for divorce that I see in my practice is consent obtained by fraud for reasons of citizenship. You may be entitled to an annulment if you were defrauded into marrying someone so that they could gain citizenship.
Other examples include where one spouse didn't tell the other that they were impotent; or in the shotgun wedding example, where one of the parties was forced to get married against their will; or, where one or both parties were so intoxicated that they were incapable of consent.
A case I studied in law school involved a couple who were mentally disabled and got married. However, because both knew what marriage was and what getting married meant, and were therefore capable of consenting to it, the marriage was allowed to stand.
What is the difference between divorce and annulment?
You can only get an annulment if the marriage was never valid. If the marriage was valid, you will need to get a divorce.
An attorney can help you decide if an annulment or a divorce is right for you and your situation. If you think you need an annulment or a divorce, schedule a consultation with Leslie to talk about your options.