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Thyden Gross and Callahan LLPCounselors and Attorneys at Law

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Maryland Divorce Legal Crier

News and comments about divorce, child support, child custody, alimony, equitable property distribution, father’s rights, mother’s rights, family law, laws on divorce and other legal information in Maryland.

Annulments

Even though it makes headlines when celebrities like KENNY CHESNEY and RENEE ZELLWEGER get an annulment of their four month marriage based on fraud, annulments are relatively rare.

Fraud is usually the basis for an annulment. Examples are failure to disclose a previous marriage, criminal record, infectious disease, the inability to have children, or the desire not to have children. Annulments have also been granted where a spouse mistakenly believes they have been divorced or widowed when in fact they are not, or the spouses are too closely related, or one party is underage, and did not obtain appropriate parental consent.

In Maryland, a void marriage means there is some legal defect that invalidates the marriage such as a spouse that is married to someone else at the time of the second marriage or the parties are blood relatives or one is underage. You do not need to file a petition for an annulment with the court in the case of a void marriage although it may be wise to do so anyway so that you have a court order of annulment.

A voidable marriage, on the other hand, can only be annulled by filing a petition for annulment with the court and having a judge declare the marriage not to have happened. Examples of voidable marriages are sham marriages or joke marriages where the parties did not really intend to marry, like BRITNEY SPEARS’ 55 hour marriage in Las Vegas. You can also ask the court for an annulment if you or your spouse were incapacitated at the time of marriage, as in insanity, intoxication, fraud or duress. Fraud can be hard to prove to a judge especially when the annulment is contested, so most people opt for a divorce instead. A divorce says the marriage is over. An annulment says it never happened.

Even CHESNEY and ZELLWEGER had trouble explaining fraud:

“Fraud was simply legal language and not a reflection of KENNY’s character,” said ZELLWEGER.

“The only fraud that was committed was me thinking that I knew what it was like…that I really understood what it was like to be married, and I really didn’t,” said CHESNEY.

The couple also issued a joint statement through a spokesperson in which they attributed the annulment to a “miscommunication of the objective of their marriage.”

It would be quite logical to think if a marriage is annuled, it is as if it never happened, and there will be no alimony or property division. The law, however, gives the court the right to award alimony and divide property in an annulment. This protects the party who thought the marriage was real.

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84 Responses to “Annulments”

  1. Stephy Steph Says:

    So I have been married for about 2 months here in MD. My husband and I have never had sex, even when we were dating. I am now considering whether or not our marriage has grounds for annulment because we are now separated due to my husband and his family wanting me to go to church even though my work hours do not permit me to. My husband has told me that because I do not wish to go to church, he does not want to be with me. We do not live together, never have because we were looking for a place, but separated before finding one. I think he married me for leagl status anyways because I found out that he over-stayed his visa, which makes him an undocumented person. He informed me that he has papers that he has to fill out and mail to get his legal status, but does not share them with me. Do you think this is enough for an annulment Mr. Gross?

  2. James J. Gross Says:

    Stephy: You have enough to suspect the marriage was a fraud. I am not sure you have enough to prove it yet. You may get that with discovery. It is possible to file for an annulment or a divorce in the same case, so that if you can’t prove fraud, you can still get a divorce.

  3. Yuri Says:

    Hello, How do we go about filling for annulment? What steps do I take?

  4. James J. Gross Says:

    Yuri: The same way you file for divorce. See “How to File for Divorce” on my website at http://mddivorcelawyers.com.

  5. Allen Daniels Says:

    I got married in 2009 and we’ve been seperated over a year. Before leaving, I discovered that my wife has a criminal history which was not disclosed prior to the marriage, which speaks to some of her behavior recently. I recently filed for divorce and she is contesting and things are turning ugly. Should I pursue the annulment route instead and is it quicker? I’m working on obtaining her criminal records…

  6. James J. Gross Says:

    Allen: Annulment is no quicker than divorce.

  7. Stephy Steph Says:

    Thank you for your previous response Mr. Gross. But I do have another question… if I were to apply for annulment and divorce, but I am unable to prove fraud, will I still have to wait the full year to get the divorce finalized?

  8. James J. Gross Says:

    Stephy: You have to have grounds for divorce (such as one year physical separation) BEFORE YOU FILE a complaint for an absolute (final) divorce. Otherwise it will be dismissed.

  9. needs out... Says:

    My husband lied about his criminal history and has since been imprisioned. I found out the full details of his past in Feb 2011 after he went to prison where he still is. So, we have not lived together since finding out. I did not know annulment was even an option. So I filed for divorce in October 2011. Is it possible to get it annulled instead on grounds of fraud or has it been too long since I found out about his criminal history? It is now Feb 2012 and I he is not agreeing or cooperating with the divorce…

  10. James J. Gross Says:

    Needs Out: It is probably not too late to amend your complaint to add an alternative count for annulment. Don’t give up your count for divorce though, in case the court won’t give you an annulment.

  11. Melanie Says:

    My brother, 57, married a gal (30ish) from Belize about a month ago. It is clear to everyone that she was marrying him to establish citizenship but my brother married her anyway. She is now manipulating him, going through his money like water etc. Would it be possible for him to get an annulment based on the fact that she married him for citizenship?

  12. James J. Gross Says:

    Melanie: Yes, it is possible.

 
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