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There are three ways to end a formal marriage in the United States: separation, divorce, and annulment. Though separation used to be the most common way to terminate a marriage, today it is rarely used. Divorce is the most common way for couples to terminate their marriage, but there is also a third option that is applicable in certain cases: annulment.
Annulment is the legal declaration that a marriage was never valid to begin with. Validity means that both parties who enter the marriage do so with good intentions and a sufficient understanding of marriage and their ability to marry. When annulment is granted it is as if the marriage never took place. After an annulment both parties are free to remarry. If there are children involved, the court will determine child custody and child support interests in the best interests of the children. Each state's annulment laws are a bit different; therefore if you or a loved one is considering annulment it may be wise to speak with a family law expert about the annulment laws in your state.
While each state has its own grounds for annulment, there are some common grounds for which annulment is granted. Annulment is typically granted on two grounds: lack of capacity, and fraud at the time of marriage. The grounds for annulment based on lack of capacity may include one or more of the following: an underage spouse, insanity, mental incapacity, being under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of marriage, the inability to consummate the marriage, bigamy, and too close of relations to be lawful.
Fraud or deceit at the time of marriage is also grounds for annulment. Fraud can include any of the following: one party never intended on getting married; one person was already married to another living person; the marriage was an attempt to deceive the other person; one person used force to get married by threat or duress; the marriage was done to gain citizenship status; one party concealed a chemical dependency or other problem; the women was pregnant with another man's child and claimed it was the husband's; and situations similar to this.
The laws regarding annulment are set forth by each state and differ from the laws that apply to marriage. Depending on the grounds for annulment, different time restraints exist for when an annulment must be sought. In some cases, the annulment must take place within 60 days of marriage, in other cases it is under a year, and still other cases of annulment can sought years after the marriage began.
If you are interested in learning more about your rights and options in seeking an annulment, you may wish to contact a qualified and experienced family law attorney in your area who can discuss your case with you in greater detail. During the annulment process, it is important to protect and maximize your legal interests, as child custody, property rights and other important matters may be at stake.
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