If you’ve watched as much daytime TV as I have, no doubt you’ve heard many a demand for an annulment. What you may not have heard clearly, is why and when an annulment is really available to a couple who may have engaged in a marital ceremony. First, let’s be clear on what marriage is and the difference between a divorce and an annulment.
In laymen’s terms, a marriage, while romatically based upon love, is also legally based upon a binding contract A contract which is voluntarily entered into between two consenting adults, who have the ability to enter into such a contract. When the romance gets lost, what sometimes follows is a divorce. A divorce is available to persons who were validly married and who then wish to dissolve that marriage. After the divorce, the marriage is known to have previously existed and the persons are known to have been married, but are following the divorce are identified as “divorced”.
An annulment, on the other hand, is available to those persons who were never married in the first place. Huh, You say. That’s right. While a couple may go thru the motions of a marriage ceremony, if either or both of them are unable to enter into the contract in the first place, then no “marriage” between the two ever really existed. In this case, once an annulment is granted, the “marriage” act is stricken as if it never even occurred and the person may state that they are not only single, but have never been married.
Over my years of practice here is my top ten list of reasons why people believe they should be able to get an annulment.
1. We haven’t had sex yet. (I give thanks to every soap opera for this one)
2: We haven’t been married that long.
3. I really didn’t know him/her that well before the ceremony.
4. It was a huge mistake.
5. It wasn’t a real church, just one of those side chapels in Vegas.
6. My child is too young. (a parent’s argument)
7. We were married out of the country.
8. We don’t share a bedroom, we just live in the same house.
9. We never lived together. In fact, after the wedding, we never even returned to the same house.
10. We haven’t told anyone.
Bonus: I never received a ring.
Unfortunately, while these are all very valid emotional reasons for wanting to undo the marriage act, none of them will persuade a Maryland court to grant an annulment. In fact, Maryland courts are very reluctant to grant a request for an annulment and in my 23 years of practice, I just hit on a scenario that warranted it. What was it? Bigamy, by one (1) day with one wife and then another act of bigamy discovered with another wife, that lasted during a substantial period of time that my client was “married” to her “husband”. It took a lot of digging, but between a good skip trace and the court and apartment records of Maryland, Virginia, Georgia and Texas, I dug up the dirt and got her annulment.
Of course bigamy is just one valid reason that will warrant an annulment. Other reasons will be the subject of another blog post. However, if you think you are entitled to an annulment, for reasons other than those noted above, call me and let’s discuss the facts. Why? Because you’ll deserve good counsel.
Thanks for reading. Please note that I am licensed to practice law in Maryland and the District of Columbia. Please feel free to learn more about my practice at www.kelseylaw.net and to seek legal advice when you feel it necessary.
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