Marriage annulment is a legal procedure for nullifying a marriage that has been determined to be voidable because of the circumstances under which it was performed. The grounds for marriage annulment can vary by jurisdiction, but annulment generally is done when a marriage involves underage parties, blood relationship or the absence of mental or physical capacity at the time of marriage. Other grounds for marriage annulment might include intoxication, duress, refusal of intercourse, misrepresentation as to religion or concealment of previous marital status. The history of marriage annulment goes back at least to the days of Henry VIII, the King of England from 1509 to 1547, who had four of his six marriages annulled.
The result of a marriage annulment is a decree that the marriage never legally existed. Now that no-fault divorce is readily available in many places, marriage annulment has become much less common. To have a marriage annulled, the jurisdictional requirements are similar to those required for dissolution or divorce: one of the parties must live for a certain period of time, such as 90 days, in the jurisdiction where the annulment is filed.
Similar to a divorce filing, a marriage annulment case proceeds with a filing, a petition, a summons and ancillary documents. The grounds for marriage annulment are stated in the petition. Many times, annulments occur after very short marriages, so there is no need to divide assets or debts or decide custody of children produced by the marriage.
In the case of a longer marriage that is annulled, the court will divide the property of the parties. The court also has the ability to establish rights and obligations related to the children. Children from an annulled marriage are considered to be legitimate.
The requirements for annulments from some churches might be different because the process is not a legal one but rather a religious one. In the case of the Catholic Church, for example, a member who wishes to remarry after a failed marriage or to marry a non-Catholic person who has been divorced must have the prior marriage nullified. The Catholic Church examines the attempted marriage to see whether it was actually a valid marriage as understood by the church. If a valid marriage did not exist, then the person is free to marry. The list of grounds for nullification of a marriage by the Catholic Church is quite lengthy.