Annulment Versus Divorce
Texas divorce lawyers are often asked about the difference between an annulment and a divorce, with individuals sometimes using the terms interchangeably. The difference between the two concepts is a matter of validity of the underlying marriage. A divorce legally ends a valid marriage. An annulment, however, legally invalidates a marriage. Granting an annulment treats the marriage as if it never took place or otherwise existed. The difficulty with an annulment is that the petitioner (the person who filed and brought the suit for annulment) must be able to meet specific statutory grounds using facts about the marriage. Thus, there is no such thing as a “no fault” annulment as the grounds for an annulment must be demonstrated for the court to grant the requested relief.
The specific statutory grounds create a very high bar that many petitioners fail to meet and then must file for divorce. Because of this, it is very important to have the advice and counsel of experienced divorce lawyers. Our attorneys can carefully review the facts of your marriage and determine the appropriate course of action.
Below is a brief description of the statutory grounds, one or more which must be met in order for an annulment to be granted:
- Underage: If the marriage of a person between the ages of 16 and 18 occurred without parental consent or a court order, the court may grant an annulment. See Fam. Code §6.102. Unless a court order has been obtained, the courts will declare any marriage to a person under 16 as void. See Tex. Fam. Code §6.205.
- Intoxication: If the petitioner was under the influence of drugs or alcohol and therefore did not have the capacity to consent to marriage, the court may grant an annulment only if the parties did not voluntarily cohabitate (live together as spouses) after the effects of the drugs or alcohol ended. See Fam. Code §6.105. If the parties moved in and tried to make the marriage work, the parties do not meet the statutory grounds required to grant an annulment.
- Impotency: If at the time of the marriage, either party was permanently impotent, the court may grant an annulment only if the petitioner did not know of the impotency at the time of the marriage and did not voluntarily cohabitate since learning of the impotency. See Fam. Code §6.106.
- Fraud, Duress, or Force: If fraud, duress, or force was used to induce the petitioner into marriage, the court may grant an annulment only if the petitioner did not voluntarily cohabitate with the respondent since learning of the fraud or since being released from the duress or force. See Fam. Code §6.107.
- Mental Incapacity: The requirements for an annulment based on mental incapacity depend on who is bringing the suit. If the petitioner possesses the incapacity, then the court may grant an annulment only if at the time of the marriage, the petitioner did not have the mental capacity to consent to the marriage or to understand the nature of the ceremony because of mental disease or defect and they did not voluntarily cohabitate with the other party during a period when they possessed the capacity to recognize the marriage relationship.
If the petitioner is the party without the mental incapacity, the court may grant an annulment only if the petitioner did not know of the mental disease or defect at the time of the marriage and has not voluntarily cohabitated with the other party since the date they discovered, or reasonably should have discovered, the mental disease or defect. See Tex. Fam. Code §6.108.
- Concealed Divorce: If at the time of the marriage, the petitioner did not know that the other party was divorced from a third party within the 30 days prior to the wedding ceremony, the court may grant an annulment only if the petitioner did not voluntarily cohabitate with the other party since learning of the divorce. See Fam. Code §6.109.
- Marriage Less than 72 Hours after Issuance of Marriage License: If the marriage ceremony took place within the 72 hours following issuance of the marriage license, the court may grant an annulment only if the annulment is sought within the 30 days after the ceremony. See Fam. Code §6.110.
- Consanguinity: if the parties are related closely by blood, as close as or closer than cousins, the court will declare the marriage void. See Fam. Code §6.201.
- Preexisting Marriage: if either party is married at the time of the marriage ceremony, the courts will declare the later marriage void. However, if after the earlier marriage is dissolved, the parties continue to live together and represent to others that they are married, the marriage can become valid. See Fam. Code §6.202.
Remember that the above are the general grounds for an annulment. The experienced family law attorneys at DePlaza Family Law can help you decide if an annulment is right for you. Please contact us today to schedule a consultation.