According to ExpertLaw.com, an annulment is "a decree that a marriage was invalid from its outset." Essentially, an annulment is a legal or religious declaration that the marriage never existed. An annulment can be obtained for a variety of reasons and certain conditions must be met before it is granted. When considering an annulment, it is important to understand the conditions and time frame.
Before understanding the conditions of an annulment, it is important to know the two major types of annulments: legal and religious. A legal annulment is handled with the help of an attorney and is a legal declaration by the court that the marriage was invalid from the start. A religious annulment is handled through your church with the help of a pastor or church leader. A religious annulment may be necessary if you plan to remarry in the church at a future time.
The length of the marriage does not have any effect on whether an annulment is possible. Whether the couple has been married for six months or 30 years, an annulment can be obtained if the conditions are met. This rule generally applies for both legal and religious annulments, although some religions may follow a different rule.
Civil Time Frame
Although a person can apply for an annulment at any time, there are a few important restrictions. As explained by ExpertLaw.com, if a spouse is seeking an annulment based on fraud or deception, the spouse must end the relationship soon after learning of the deception. The website goes on to explain that "if cohabitation continues once the innocent spouse knows of the fraud, many jurisdictions will consider that the spouses resolved the issue between themselves and that the fraud was thereby rendered a non-issue." In this case, an annulment will likely not be granted. Additionally, a legal annulment is more difficult to obtain if the married couple has children together.
Religious Time Frame
All religions have their own rules regarding the annulment process. It will be necessary to consult your priest, rabbi, minister or other religious leader to determine the annulment rules for your religion.
To obtain a legal annulment, certain conditions must be met. According to ExpertLaw.com, the following circumstances are grounds for an annulment: the spouses are close biological relatives; one of the spouses did not have sufficient mental competence to enter into the marriage; one or both spouses was not of legal age to marry; the marriage occurred as a result of force or threat; the marriage was based on fraud or deception; one spouse was legally married to another person at the time of marriage. A religious annulment may be available for other circumstances as well, such as the "psychological inability to live the marriage commitment" as described by the church.