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What is Marriage Annulment?

By Cathy Rogers
Updated May 16, 2024
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Marriage annulment is a legal procedure for nullifying a marriage that has been determined to be voidable because of the circumstances under which it was performed. The grounds for marriage annulment can vary by jurisdiction, but annulment generally is done when a marriage involves underage parties, blood relationship or the absence of mental or physical capacity at the time of marriage. Other grounds for marriage annulment might include intoxication, duress, refusal of intercourse, misrepresentation as to religion or concealment of previous marital status. The history of marriage annulment goes back at least to the days of Henry VIII, the King of England from 1509 to 1547, who had four of his six marriages annulled.

The result of a marriage annulment is a decree that the marriage never legally existed. Now that no-fault divorce is readily available in many places, marriage annulment has become much less common. To have a marriage annulled, the jurisdictional requirements are similar to those required for dissolution or divorce: one of the parties must live for a certain period of time, such as 90 days, in the jurisdiction where the annulment is filed.

The Process

Similar to a divorce filing, a marriage annulment case proceeds with a filing, a petition, a summons and ancillary documents. The grounds for marriage annulment are stated in the petition. Many times, annulments occur after very short marriages, so there is no need to divide assets or debts or decide custody of children produced by the marriage.

In the case of a longer marriage that is annulled, the court will divide the property of the parties. The court also has the ability to establish rights and obligations related to the children. Children from an annulled marriage are considered to be legitimate.

Religious Annulments

The requirements for annulments from some churches might be different because the process is not a legal one but rather a religious one. In the case of the Catholic Church, for example, a member who wishes to remarry after a failed marriage or to marry a non-Catholic person who has been divorced must have the prior marriage nullified. The Catholic Church examines the attempted marriage to see whether it was actually a valid marriage as understood by the church. If a valid marriage did not exist, then the person is free to marry. The list of grounds for nullification of a marriage by the Catholic Church is quite lengthy.

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Discussion Comments

By anon274818 — On Jun 13, 2012

Why can't a Methodist marry me? I've been married four times and this would be my fifth wedding. Please help.

By anon234403 — On Dec 12, 2011

I have been married for five years but my wife left me for another man. The last news I heard from them was she married the man under muslim rites. Please advise how you might be able to help me.

By anon135119 — On Dec 17, 2010

My ex-husband and I were married in 1970 in a Catholic church. We divorced in 1977. Now in 2010 he has decided he wants an annulment. Our children are in their 30s. How does this affect them legally?

By anon117012 — On Oct 08, 2010

my wife had an illicit affair with another man and occasionally had a carnal knowledge of him. we had legal separation with and attorney, and we were separated for eight years from the moment that the legal separation exist. Can we file for annulment of marriage?

By anon77197 — On Apr 13, 2010

Myself and my husband have a annulment but we are still married through our religious marriage. Now we want to try to work things and live together again. Can we remove our annulment?

By anon76857 — On Apr 12, 2010

I am separated for nearly three years, left my three boys with my husband. I'm out of the country, working and still supporting my kids to some of their needs. There is no hope and chance for our reconciliation and had started dating and decided to remarry soon. where shall i start and how much will it cost me and how long will it take

By anon70753 — On Mar 16, 2010

my husband is a muslim and i am catholic. We've been married for almost two years but we are just married in my home town, not in their country. he gave me a visa in their country as a house servant. we had a lot of fights because of the differences.i wanted to have a divorce. what should i do?

By anon65791 — On Feb 16, 2010

my partner wants to marry me but he's married to another woman, and his ex-wife has a husband. How many years does the annulment process take?

By anon64409 — On Feb 07, 2010

Me and my wife were married for three months and now she wants it annulled. what is the time limit?

By anon58604 — On Jan 03, 2010

I got married three months ago and I have a strong suspicion that my wife doesn't love me and that she just married me to get a green card. we have only known each other for about a year. I fell in love with her she lied about her feelings. can I just get an annulment and move on?

By anon49490 — On Oct 20, 2009

the word "anullment" is not recognized by any biblical scripture.

it is a Catholic rule, invented by some man in cloth to make a woman "feel better" on a wrongful action they may have done by divorcing their husband, so they can marry another man.

The church can then invoice the woman and then she can introduce another man to the wonderful religion of men.

By anon42037 — On Aug 18, 2009

is there any particular amount of time for the marriage before it can be annulled?

By bundles75 — On Aug 14, 2009

hello i am a soldier deployed to iraq. I got married to a woman that i have known for about two years before I deployed. I have reason to believe that she only married me for my money and benefits. Plus we have never had sex. She recently began asking me about a divorce, but I really don't want to have to explain the situation to the next woman I decide to marry. Do I qualify for an annulment?

By anon40085 — On Aug 06, 2009

i want to file an annulment. i have been separated for 9 years from my ex-husband. i'm out of the country, and i don't have news about my ex-husband or where he is. i want to know how to start, because i am planning to get married in May 2010.

By anon31942 — On May 13, 2009

My boyfriend is Christian, I am catholic, he's divorced and he wants to get married with me. I am just confused. Are there annulments in Christianity that are not catholic?

By erinerni — On May 08, 2009

what if the other party does not want to sign the document for the annulment? will the annulment still be processed?

By anon17373 — On Aug 28, 2008

can the person remarry again after an annulment? i have learned that annulment doesn't give you the right to remarry again, it just gives you the right to legally live separately from your spouse. thanks

By anon14388 — On Jun 16, 2008

I was married July 9, 1999. We married in Kansas City, KS. We went through problems and I left September 20, 1999. I served him with papers for annulment/divorce on February 9, 2000. I served him while at home in Atlanta, Ga. My questions is was my marriage annulled or a divorce?

By lemmings — On Apr 01, 2008

It seems strange that divorce is not allowed by the Catholic Church but annullment after many years of marriage is - doesn't it just end up being the same thing, basically?

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