Marriages are frequently ended through divorce, but they can also be found invalid and ended through annulment. While divorce proceedings dissolve a marriage, annulling a marriage means it legally did not exist. An annulment is not possible for every couple wanting to end their marriage. There are certain reasons why a couple could get an annulment in Missouri. If you qualify, an annulment could be a more straightforward way to separate. However, it’s important to understand when an annulment is or isn’t beneficial.
Understanding an Annulment
A divorce ends a marriage from the date of separation, while an annulment determines that the marriage was voided from the date of marriage. A marriage must qualify to be annulled. The marriage may always be considered void, or a judge could determine that it is voidable in unique circumstances. A marriage must meet one of the following qualifications in Missouri to be annulled:
- Bigamy: A bigamous marriage is when a spouse has a prior legally valid marriage. The party who files for annulment based on bigamy must prove that the previous marriage was valid and existed and that it was not terminated through a divorce, death, or presumed death. The court will only approve the annulment of the current marriage if these facts are proven.
- Underage: A marriage involving a spouse under the age of 18 is considered invalid unless there is written consent from their parent or legal guardian. The court can also provide permission for the marriage.
- Incest: Marriages between closely related family members are always considered void.
- Lack of Capacity: If one spouse was unable to consent to the marriage, it is considered void. This includes a lack of mental capacity from incompetence, insanity, or senility. It also includes intoxication or unconsciousness at the time of marriage.
- Common Law Marriage: A common law marriage is a form of marriage in some states where a couple acts as a married couple for a significant period of time and is considered legally married. Common law marriage is not recognized in Missouri and would be considered void.
- Fraud: In very specific situations, fraud or misrepresentation can be a reason for a marriage to be annulled.
- Duress: Both parties must consent to a marriage for it to be legally valid. If a marriage happened under threat of violence or other forms of duress, it can be annulled.
- Impotency: In some cases, impotency can be reason for annulment. If the condition is permanent and unable to be cured and the other spouse was unaware or misled about the issue at the time of the marriage, it could be annulled.
In Missouri, a short marriage duration is not grounds for annulment. There would have to be another legally recognized ground for annulment. Failure to consummate a marriage is also not grounds for annulment in Missouri.
The Impact of an Annulment Compared to a Divorce
Because annulment makes the marriage never exist to begin with, this can have significant implications for both parties and their children. In an annulment, the laws that govern the dissolution of marriage do not apply.
In a divorce, the court or the parties have control over alimony, division of property, child support, and child custody. This changes after an annulment. There is no alimony or spousal support available in an annulled marriage, which can be an issue if parties have been married for a significant period of time. The court does not have authority over the division of property, which can also lead to complex issues between parties.
If the couple had any children during their annulled marriage or within 300 days after the annulment, those children are considered legitimate children of the marriage. Both parents have legal rights and responsibilities, including child support and custody. The court can make and enforce child custody orders just as it would with unmarried or married parents who are separating. The children of an annulled marriage are only considered illegitimate if the judge orders it.
Q: How Do You Prove a Marriage Is Void?
A: A void or voidable marriage in Missouri is based on one of the following reasons:
- One spouse has a previous and still valid marriage
- Spouses are closely related
- The marriage is a common law marriage, which is not recognized in the state
- One party did not have the mental capacity to get married
- One party was under the age of 18 and did not have parental consent or court approval
- The marriage was entered into under duress, threat, or violence
In these cases, the marriage could be annulled.
Q: How Long After a Marriage Can It Be Annulled in Missouri?
A: Under Missouri law, a marriage can’t be annulled simply because it has only been entered into for a short period of time. Even if it has only been a day, the marriage is considered legally valid unless it meets different criteria for annulment. This may include bigamy, incest, certain underage marriages, lack of capacity, or a marriage not entered willingly by both parties.
Q: What Is the Difference Between Annulment and Divorce Near St. Charles, MO?
A: A divorce is a legal proceeding to dissolve a marriage via court order, while an annulment is a court decision that voids a marriage and acts as though the marriage never existed. An annulment means there is no spousal support, and laws for child custody and support can be more complicated. The court has no say over how property is divided. These factors can mean that an annulment ends up being more complicated than a divorce, depending on your unique situation.
Q: Can a Spouse Refuse a Divorce in Missouri?
A: If one spouse files for a divorce, the other spouse cannot refuse to get a divorce and remain married. If the non-filing spouse refuses the divorce, it becomes a contested divorce. This means the divorce enters litigation and is longer, more expensive, and more complicated than an uncontested divorce. The filing spouse must file on the ground of irreconcilable differences, and ignoring the served divorce papers or court dates will not prevent the divorce from occurring; it will only put the non-filing spouse at a severe disadvantage.
Determining How to End Your Marriage
If you qualify for an annulment, it may be the better option for ending your marriage. However, it can also make the process of separation much more complicated and not be in your interests. If you are considering annulment or divorce, discuss your case with a compassionate and qualified family law attorney. Contact Stange Law Firm to see how we can help you.