You can seek an annulment if you want to have a court declare that your marriage is no longer valid, even though it may have been valid when you first got married. There are five reasons you can use to get an annulment of your marriage:
- Too young to give consent to get married – Marriage of any person under 18 needs the written consent of both parents. Marriage of any person under 16 also needs approval by order of a judge. If these requirements are not met, a spouse who is still under 18 (or his or her parents or guardians) can seek an annulment.
- Lack of mental capacity to give consent to get married – If you or your spouse was mentally ill or otherwise mentally incapacitated at the time of the marriage, the marriage may be annulled for that reason while either spouse is alive.
- Lack of physical capacity to consummate the marriage – If you or your spouse is physically unable to have sexual intercourse, but did not know of the incapacity at the time of the marriage, the marriage may possibly be annulled. You must ask for the annulment within the first five years of the marriage.
- Consent for the marriage obtained by force, duress, or fraud – If you entered into the marriage due to pressure, force, or fraud, you may be able to obtain an annulment. Examples of fraudulent marriages include:
- marrying to obtain immigration status (a green card)
- claiming to be pregnant to entice someone to marry
- claiming you want to have children when you really don’t
- Incurable mental illness for a period of five years or more – If your spouse is mentally ill for more than five years and cannot be cured, you may be able to obtain an annulment.
When a marriage is annulled, it is declared null and void. The record of the marriage and annulment remains, but you and your former spouse may consider yourselves to not have been married. Any children of the marriage remain legitimate. After the annulment, a few issues must be dealt with, including:
- Minor children: You and your former spouse both remain responsible for any minor children of the marriage. A court can make orders for custody, visitation and financial support of minor children.
- Division of property: A court can make an order to distribute marital property fairly between you and your former spouse, and also may order maintenance payments, just as if the action were for divorce.
Legal Editor: Charlotte Lee, April 2015 (updated February 2019)
Changes may occur in this area of law. The information provided is brought to you as a public service with the help and assistance of volunteer legal editors, and is intended to help you better understand the law in general. It is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem or to substitute for the advice of a lawyer.