Understanding Annulments

May 26, 2016

family lawyers Dublin, Ohio

An annulment does more than end a marriage contract. The annulment decree states that a marriage never existed in the eyes of the state. Personal, legal, and religious reasons can make seeking an annulment preferable, but anyone who requests an annulment must understand that getting a court to declare that no binding contract existed limits options for claiming shared property and blocks any request for spousal support. 

Why Does Ohio Grant Marriage Annulments? 

Ohio courts will grant an annulment if the plaintiff—the spouse who files the petition—can prove one of the following six facts: 

  • One or both parties were too young to agree to a marriage. In Ohio, a man must be 18 to voluntarily marry, while a woman must be at least 16.
  • A court declared one or both parties mentally incompetent, making them unable to enter into or fulfill the terms of a legally binding contract. Restoration of mental competence removes this as grounds for annulment, as does a decision to continue the marriage for years following the finding of mental incompetence.
  • One or both parties are currently legally married to someone else. Bigamy, or knowingly marrying more than one person, is a crime, but an annulment can also be granted if a spouse enters into a new marriage before completing a divorce.
  • No sexual relations occurred after the wedding. Courts in Ohio give a spouse two years following the issuance of the marriage license to file for an annulment on the grounds of failure to consummate.
  • Fraud convinced one or both parties to agree to the marriage. Note that continuing to live with the defendant named in the annulment petition after learning about the misrepresentations can constitute consent. Waiting more than two years before seeking an annulment will hurt the plaintiff’s case.
  • Force or coercion was used to obtain the agreement to marry. Again, these grounds must be claimed within two years of the date on which the marriage began. 

Why Do People Seek Marriage Annulments? 

An annulment can be a best option for ending a marriage for three reasons. Fist, a divorce agreement is itself a legally binding contact that often requires parties to remain in contact for administering shared assets, handling child custody and visitation rights, and paying and receiving spousal support. An annulment can make completely cutting ties with a former spouse easier. 

Second, an annulment can be a way to hold the defendant accountable for fraud or mistreatment. While not a criminal sentence, a judge who grants an annulment on either of those grounds creates a public record that names the responsible party. 

Last, receiving a legal annulment can facilitate having one’s church grant a religious annulment. The Catholic Church, in particular, has long restricted devout members from remarrying unless they secure an annulment (a “declaration of nullity”) from a church tribunal. 

Do Annulments Require Going to Court? 

Yes. The annulment process is very similar to the divorce process. The spouse named as the defendant can contest the grounds for the petition, and negotiations or a full court trial may be needed to settle questions over the division of property and child custody. Consulting with an experienced and empathetic Dublin, Ohio, family lawyer while seeking an annulment is strongly recommended. 

Is Spousal Support an Option With an Annulment? 

No. The petitioner cannot request alimony when asking for an annulment because a successful petition results in a court declaring that the marriage contract never existed. Without a contract, neither person would have an obligation to provide for the other person financially. This reality can also make dividing property, assigning jointly acquired debt, and dissolving a co-owned business as part of an annulment proceeding complicated. 

Note that a judge can order the defendant to pay the plaintiff’s attorney fees if he or she grants an annulment on the grounds of fraud. 

To speak with a family lawyer in Dublin, Ohio, about an annulment, call Edward F. Whipps & Associates at (614) 461-6006. You can also schedule an appointment online.

 

 

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