Social and/or religious reasons often prompt individuals to inquire about annulment rather than a divorce, because there is a difference. An annulment is when the court determines that a valid marriage never existed. A divorce is when the court terminates a valid marriage.
Although an annulment may be desirable to some, annulment is only available in very limited circumstances. In order to be granted an annulment in Maryland, one of the following legal grounds must be met: Duress, Fraud, Mental Disability, Bigamy, Consanquinity or Age.
Duress: The party seeking the annulment was coerced into getting married at the time of the wedding ceremony and was in fear of great bodily harm if they did not get married.
Fraud: One spouse defrauded the other to convince him/her to get married. For fraud to be a basis to annul a marriage, it must be something that affects the health or well-being of the parties or the children of the marriage. Additionally, once the fraud has been discovered the innocent spouse must not continue to reside with the other spouse otherwise the fraud ground has been waived;
Mental Disability: One spouse was mentally incapable of getting married;
Bigamy: One spouse was legal married to another person at the time of the marriage;
Consanguinity: The parties are more closely related than first cousins;
Age Limits: If a spouse is under the age of 18, unless the underage spouse is 16 or 17 and had parental consent or is 15 and pregnant and had parental consent.
What happens with children of annulled marriages? Children of an annulled marriage are considered legitimate unless it can be clearly proven that the husband did not father the children. Just like with a divorce, when a marriage is annulled, the judge can still decide issues like custody, visitation, child support, alimony and attorney’s fees. The court can also divide any property the spouses have acquired.
If you are contemplating divorce and believe an annulment may be a better option, Hess Family Law can help you determine whether or not you have legal grounds for such a proceeding.