If you are in a marriage that you wish to end, divorce or annulment are two possible ways to do so. Although most couples choose divorce, an annulment is more suitable for one or both spouses under specific cases. Legal annulments are extremely irregular.
Annulment vs. Divorce
A divorce ends a marriage, whereas a marriage annulment is basically a declaration that a marriage is void and asserts that a valid marriage never existed in the first place. This means that, according to the law, you and your partner were not legally married. You may be eligible for a religious annulment; however, you will be required to contact your religious leader for a religious annulment. A legal annulment should not be confused with a religious annulment, which has no legal effect.
Who Can Get a Marriage Annulment?
The reasons where an annulment would be granted can be quite restrictive; however, you may be able to get an annulment for one or more of the following reasons:
- If you lack the mental capacity to understand what a marriage is.
- If you married someone under duress (you were forced to marry the other person).
- If there is bigamy, you married someone who was already married at the time of your marriage, and you did not know that when you got married.
- If you got married while you were a minor under 18 years old without your parents’ consent.
- If you were unaware that the marriage ceremony in which you were involved was an actual marriage ceremony.
- If there is incest, you married someone too closely related to you (such as your brother or sister).
- If your marriage cannot be consummated. There must be a physical inability to consummate the marriage, not a voluntary choice not to consummate the marriage. You must not have known it was not possible to consummate the marriage. The person who cannot consummate the marriage cannot request an annulment; it must be the other spouse who was not aware.
- If you were lied to and defrauded by the other spouse who intends to use the marriage for a nefarious reason.
Where Does the Burden of Proof Lie?
One party bears the burden of proof when the law places the responsibility of proving the grounds for legal action on that party. Generally, the individual pursuing a change in a lawful relationship, such as a marriage, takes the burden of proving that the change is justified. It is the responsibility of the spouse seeking an annulment to prove that one of the grounds noted above exists. If there is not enough evidence in favor of the existence of acceptable grounds, an annulment will not be granted, and divorce must be applied for, as there is no burden of proof of an uncontested divorce.
Annulment Next Steps
You must apply to the court to get an annulment by having the court issue an Application, where you would ask for an annulment of marriage.
You may have the same rights as a married spouse, even if you get an annulment. The court examines your specific circumstances, including when you got married and why you are asking for an annulment. Some rights may be dividing property, exclusive possession of the matrimonial home, spousal and child support, decision-making responsibility, and parenting time.
You should always obtain independent legal advice before making any decisions or signing any documents.