Annulment of Marriage in Ohio Differs from Dissolution
In our practice, which involves exclusively family law matters, we receive a number of calls each year concerning annulment of marriages in Ohio. First off, annulment should not be confused with dissolution. In Ohio, a dissolution of marriage may be had on an agreed ground of “irreconcilable differences” but the fact is that there was still a “marriage.” The fact of the “marriage” having existed leads to “marital rights” having been established, such as rights in a spouse’s retirement plan (for accumulations or benefits which were earned during the marriage as well as the presumption that any children born during the marriage were “children of the marriage” and therefore fathered by the husband.)
The effect of an annulment could be that, instead of working through custody and child support matters in a divorce court, the parents would be placed in a position of having to establish parentage, and then going into the juvenile court to work out custody and support issues. Another effect of an annulment—since it establishes that the marriage essentially did not happen, would be that there would be no spousal rights to support, inheritance, or other rights granted to a spouse. With an annulment there is no marital property, no marital debt, and no “marital” responsibilities regarding debts or property of the other person. However, there may be other theories of law and causes of action in relation to joint, non-marital, ownership of property or accounts, or joint “non-marital” obligations.
Specific Circumstances Must Exist for an Annulment
In Ohio, a statute (O.R.C. 3105.31) controls when and in what circumstances an annulment of marriage may be granted. To obtain an annulment, the party wishing to annul the marriage would have to apply to a court, through the filing of an action for annulment and then demonstrate to the court that his cause of action was in compliance with the statute. In other words, he/she would have to prove that one or more of the statutory grounds for annulment existed.
Of note is that the statute speaks in terms of causes for annulment “existing at the time of the marriage.” Such causes, if they existed at the time the parties were married have to do with one of the parties being under the age of consent (but note that if the same party continued to cohabit with the other party after attaining the age of consent, an annulment based upon being under age at the time of the marriage would no longer be available). It is of value to note that “cohabitation” in domestic relations law in Ohio, is interpreted in various ways in different counties but can essentially be described as “two people living together in a marriage-like relationship.” However, domestic relations law has held, in other areas, that simply being in the same home, or simply engaging in a sexual relationship, are not enough, in and of themselves facts or acts which create “cohabitation.” Note that O.R.C. 3101 provides that a man must be 18 or older to consent but that a woman can be 16 to consent.
Statutory Grounds for Annulment in Ohio
Another ground for annulment would be if, at the time of the marriage, one of the parties getting married had a former spouse who was still alive and in relation to whom there had been no divorce or termination of the marriage with the party.
Another reason to permit annulment of a marriage would be if one of the parties, at the time of the marriage, had been adjudicated to be mentally incompetent. Again though, the statute makes an exception if the party was restored to competency and then cohabited with the other party as that party’s husband or wife.
If one of the parties can prove that his or her consent to get married was obtained by fraud of some sort, then the marriage can be annulled; but again, this ground will not be viable if the defrauded party cohabited with the other party after having full knowledge of the facts constituting the fraud. What the phrase “full facts” means is most likely left up to the opinion of the court, after hearing and considering all the evidence.
There is also a ground for annulment of marriage in Ohio if a party has been forced to consent to a marriage but this ground is not viable if the party cohabitates “afterwards” with the other person as his/her husband or wife.
A final ground for annulment is that the marriage was never consummated which would essentially mean that the parties never engaged in sexual intercourse after the marriage occurred.
Refer to State-specific Requirements When Considering an Annulment of Marriage in Ohio
Section 3105.32 of the Ohio Revised Code states that in the case of an annulment because of someone being under age at the time of the marriage, the annulment must be started within two years after the person reaches the age of consent. The person may start the action or his/her parents are given permission to start the action if they are under age.
This same section of the revised code provides that actions may be commenced at any time during the life of the other party to the marriage or by the “former husband or wife” if one of the parties was still legally married to someone else who was still alive at the time of marriage at issue. This section also states that for someone who was mentally incompetent at the time of the marriage, the action for annulment may be commenced at any time while both of the parties are still alive and may be commenced by the aggrieved party or by a relative or guardian.
If fraud was involved then the action to annul the marriage must be commenced within two years after discovery of the facts constituting the fraud. If force was involved the action to annul the marriage must be started within two years of the date of the marriage. Finally, in the case of failure to consummate the marriage, the action must be commenced within two years of the date of the marriage also.