What is an annulment?
A suit for annulment is a lawsuit that alleges there is some legal impediment to the creation of a valid marriage. A marriage that is trying to be annulled is considered to be voidable, that is, it is a valid marriage until an annulment is granted. If the annulment is granted, the marriage becomes void, as if it never happened. But, if the annulment is denied, the marriage is considered to be a valid marriage.
What is required in order to get an annulment?
The court must have subject matter jurisdiction and in rem jurisdiction, but it does not need to have personal jurisdiction over both parties, unless a spouse wants the court to divide property or require the other spouse to pay attorney fees or court costs. For there to be in rem jurisdiction, the spouses must have been married in Texas or at least one spouse must be domiciled in Texas. There is no requirement that a party be domiciled in Texas for a certain period of time.
What are the grounds for an annulment?
An annulment may be granted if the petitioner pleads and proves any of the following grounds:
- A party to the marriage was at least 16 years old but under 18 years old and did not have parental consent or a court order granting permission to marry. An annulment cannot be granted under this section after the party turns 18 years old.
- At the time of the marriage the petitioner (a) was under the influence of alcoholic beverages or narcotics, and as a result (b) did not have the capacity to consent to the marriage, and (c) did not voluntarily cohabit with the other party after the effects of the alcoholic beverages or narcotics wore off.
- Either party, for physical or mental reasons, was permanently impotent at the time of the marriage; the petitioner did not know of the impotency at the time of the marriage, and the petitioner did not voluntarily cohabit with the other party after learning of the impotency.
- The respondent used fraud, duress, or force to induce the petitioner to enter into the marriage and the petitioner did not voluntarily cohabit with the other party since learning of the fraud or since being released from the duress or force.
- Mental incapacity.
- The respondent was divorced from a third party within 30 days before marrying the petitioner; at the time of the marriage the petitioner did not know, and a reasonably prudent person would not have known of the divorce; since the petitioner discovered or a reasonably prudent person would have discovered the fact of the divorce, the petitioner has not voluntarily cohabited with the respondent; and the annulment suit is brought before the first anniversary of the marriage. The 30-day period starts when the court rendered the respondent’s divorce, not when the divorce decree was signed.
- The marriage took place during the 72-hour waiting period after the marriage license was issued.
Is a legal separation the same as a divorce?
No. A legal separation is NOT a divorce. “Legal separation” is not recognized in Texas as a marital status. You and your spouse remain legally married even though you have chosen to live separate lives. As such, each of you remains subject to the same laws that apply to married people. If you do live separately, it is advisable for each spouse to sign a separation agreement that clearly states each spouse’s rights, duties and responsibilities and addresses such issues as division of assets and debts, conservatorship (custody) of the child, visitation, child support, health insurance for the child and spousal maintenance.