An annulment is a judicial proceeding proclaiming retroactively invalidating a marriage to the date of its formation. Basically, the court issues an order stating that there never was a marriage and terminates all rights and obligations under a marriage i.e. property, benefits, and alimony. Grounds for annulment include: fraud, misrepresentation, and duress:
- Fraud is the misrepresentation or concealment of a material fact, which if known to the other party, would have resulted in their withholding consent to marry.
- Misrepresentation is when one spouse makes a false or misleading assertion, usually with the intent to deceive the other spouse into marriage.
- Duress is the unlawful pressure, exerted upon one spouse, coercing them to enter into a marriage that he or she ordinarily would not.
Please note, grounds for annulment become harder to prove the longer a spouse waits to file with the court. In other words, don’t “drag your feet” if you are seeking an annulment.
In some cases, one spouse may want to contest the annulment, usually to hold the other spouse to their marital obligations. The contesting spouse may assert the following defenses:
- Laches is the unreasonable delay of the spouse pursuing an annulment in a way that prejudices the other spouse. Put simply, although there is no time limit about when one can annul a marriage, annulments are typically reserved for short marriages lasting weeks or months that generally do not include joint assets or shared children. Dragging one’s feet to the point where it has a negative impact on the other spouse will likely result in the court denying the annulment.
- Ratification~ the confirmation and acceptance of the marriage, thereby making it valid from the date the marriage was entered into.
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