Annulments as an Option to Divorce
- By: William James
Like a divorce, an annulment of a marriage involves the courts and often the church. In either case, an annulment is involves the process of dissolving a marriage, and may be requested on a variety of grounds, some of them clearly protected by law, others not.
However, unlike a divorce, an annulment treats the marriage as though it never happened. For some people, divorce carries a stigma of failure and or negativity that often job applicants have to reveal and others must disclose on certain applications.
Many people would prefer not to have to deal with this kind of stress and instead of a divorce they seek to have their marriage annulled. Others prefer an annulment because it may be easier to remarry in their church if they go through an annulment rather than a divorce.
There are two types of annulment and you need to know the difference before proceeding. A civil annulment (an annulment that is granted by the state government) and religious annulment (and annulment that is granted through a church).
If you were not married in a church it doesn't mean you can't have your marriage annulled. It just requires that you take the proper civil and legal steps to do so. If you were married in the Catholic church, the rules are slightly different: you must go to the priest who performed your ceremony and request an annulment before finalizing the paperwork.
Grounds for Civil Annulment: There are various grounds for civil annulment and these grounds will vary slightly from state to state. Generally, an annulment requires that at least one of the following reasons be included in your list of grounds for a civil annulment:
Misrepresentation or fraud. This can happen, for example, if a spouse has been proved to have lied about his or her capacity to have children; that they have reached the age of consent, or that he or she was not married to someone else at the time of your marriage. These can be difficult to prove, but generally speaking, any one of these circumstances are grounds for granting an annulment.
Concealment: This pertains to situations where, for example, a spouse concealed an addiction to alcohol or drugs, a felony conviction; having children from a prior relationship; carrying a sexually transmitted disease; or diagnosed impotency. These are considered life-threatening and emotionally damaging issues and are typically considered as solid reasons for an annulment.
If there is a refusal or inability to consummate the marriage, that is refusal or an inability of a spouse to have sexual intercourse with the other spouse, an annulment may be granted.
Most annulments take place after marriages of a very short duration, often within only a few weeks or months. What that means is that there are usually no assets or debts to divide, or children for whom custody, visitation, and child support are a concern.
When a long-term marriage is annulled, however most states have provisions in place for dividing property and debts, as well as determining custody, visitation, child support, and alimony. Children of an annulled marriage are not considered illegitimate children. They are entitled to full rights under the law that protect children of divorce.
Religious Annulments: Within the Roman Catholic Church, a couple may obtain a religious annulment after obtaining a civil divorce, so that one or both people may remarry, within the church or anywhere else, and have the second union recognized by the church. The grounds for annulments in the Catholic Church are different than for civil annulments. You may want to check with your own religious organization to make sure you understand them before proceeding.
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