First, it is important to understand what an annulment truly is, as there are many misconceptions regarding its definition. An annulment is a legal proceeding in which one party (the petitioner) asks the court to declare a marriage “void”, which has the legal effect of acting as if the marriage never took place. In addition, Texas law also defines situations which are deemed “void” marriages — defined as a marriage that never legally existed under the laws of Texas.
In Texas, a marriage can qualify for an annulment only under very specific and limited reasons, as defined by Chapter 6 of the Texas Family Code. A court has the discretion to grant an annulment if: 1) one of the parties is between the ages of 16 and 18 and did not obtain parental consent or a court order; 2) if the marriage took place within the 72-hour period immediately following the issuance of the marriage license; 3) at the time of the marriage, the petitioner was under the influence and did not have the capacity to consent; 4) either party, for physical or mental reasons, was permanently impotent at the time of the marriage and the petitioner was not aware; 5) if the other party used fraud, duress, or force to induce marriage; 6) the court finds that a party lacks mental capacity; or 7) the other party was divorced less than 30 days from the date of their previous marriage and concealed the divorce from the petitioner. For circumstances 3-7, the petitioner must also establish that the parties did not cohabitate once the petitioner learned of the fact which could establish the annulment.
A marriage is declared “void”, which means it never legally existed, under the following conditions: 1) if one party is related to the other by whole or half-blood or adoption; 2) if either party was previously married and the other marriage has not been dissolved; 3) same-sex unions; 4) marriage to a minor (unless a proper court order has been obtained); or 5) if either party is a current or former stepchild or stepparent of the other party.
Brenda R. Ferguson practices collaborative family law in Fort Worth, TX.