Although they both involve the dissolution of marriage, an annulment is a different procedure than a divorce. A no-fault divorce states that the marriage needs to end, but with no blame placed on the other person. All states recognize some type of no-fault divorce and these can be easier to get a court to approve than an annulment. When a couple seeks an annulment, they are claiming that the marriage was somehow illegitimate or void because of one of several circumstances. A divorce said that the marriage no longer exists, whereas annulment declares that a marriage never truly existed in the first place. What qualifies for an annulment varies from state to state, but generally the rules are similar and include five of the most common reasons to end the marriage.
A marriage is not valid if the two parties who were bound in matrimony are blood relatives. This circumstance renders the marriage void in many states. According to the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law website, marriages between parent and children, grandparents, half or whole brothers and sisters, uncles and nieces, aunts and nephews, and first cousins are grounds for an annulment.
While most people would recognize if they were planning to marry a blood relative, there is the possibility that it could happen coincidentally with the two parties being unaware of their familial relationship.
Capacity to Marry
For a marriage to be valid, it is essential that both parties have the capacity to marry mentally and legally.
Marrying a person without the mental capacity to fully understand the meaning of the wedding is grounds for annulment. This can be because of mental illness or even an intoxicated party to the wedding who is not aware of what he is doing. Likewise, if a person is not legally qualified to marry, the marriage can be annulled as well. Marrying a person under the state’s age of consent is acceptable grounds for annulment. Bigamy, or a person getting married when they are already legally married to another person, also qualifies for an annulment.
Fraud can be grounds for an annulment if one party to the marriage entered into the relationship without revealing certain truths about himself ahead of time. A spouse may claim that she would not have married the person had she known the truth about the other person.
According to the Marquette Law Review, a woman can seek an annulment on grounds of fraud if her husband lies about being a naturalized citizen of the United States when he is actually a citizen of another country. Other instances of fraud can include false identification, undisclosed trouble with the law, misrepresentation of religion or medical conditions -- including impotence -- or the inability to bear children.
Refusal of Intercourse
In some states, an annulment will be granted if a marriage has not been consummated. In the event that one of the parties to the wedding refuses to have sexual intercourse with the other, it is possible for the other party to seek an annulment stating that the action qualifies as “voidable,” according to the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law website.
A valid wedding cannot take place without the consent of both parties. If one party to the marriage claims after the wedding that the consent to get married was coerced or otherwise gained through questionable means, this can sometimes be grounds for annulment.