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Annulment is the legal process by which a marriage that should not have occurred is legally undone. Annulment can also be called invalidation of a marriage, as once it has been approved and signed by a judge, it is as if the marriage never existed from a legal standpoint. There are a great number of reasons marriage may be annulled, known as grounds for annulment. If grounds are found for annulment, in the eyes of the law, it is as if the marriage never happened in the first place. The person’s legal status is returned to single, and they are considered never to have been legally married to their former spouse.
If you believe you entered a marriage that should never have occurred due to a legal concern, you can petition for annulment in Arizona. It is essential to ensure legal grounds for annulment exist. For help determining whether your marriage qualifies for annulment and assistance with completing the annulment through Arizona Family Court, turn to the professional divorce and annulment attorneys at The Valley Law Group.
To get an annulment of marriage in Arizona, you will first need to petition the court for an annulment. The judge will examine the situation and determine whether there is sufficient proof that you did not consent to the marriage or that the marriage should never have happened in the first place. You and your attorney must provide evidence that the marriage should be annulled for this reason, otherwise known as grounds for annulment. If sufficient grounds for annulment are found, the judge will then issue a court order that declares the marriage null and void.
Sufficient grounds for annulment may include marriages that should have been prohibited from the beginning, such as in cases of bigamy or incest. Grounds could also include marriages where one party or the other cannot give consent, suffers from mental illness, or is married under duress.
A divorce makes changes to people’s rights to marriage moving forward by dissolving a legal marriage. Unlike divorce, an annulment removes certain rights that were gained by people throughout the marriage by determining that the marriage never existed on a legal basis. More specifically, an annulment can retroactively change whether a person had the right to make certain decisions during a marriage, undoing certain contracts or decisions they made as spouses. This can apply to all matters where the marriage is relevant, including the right to make legal decisions for another person, taxes, inheritance, guardianship, and more.
These factors make an annulment a much more powerful legal tool than divorce in many ways. Divorce simply dissolves a marriage and dictates how the couple must move forward with the division of property and parenting time; it does not invalidate decisions made during the marriage. Since annulment completely invalidates the marriage, it may raise a plethora of secondary legal questions. This is especially the case for annulments of longer marriages, where years of choices must be reviewed and evaluated for their legality. That’s why it is so essential to secure the services of a knowledgeable annulment attorney.
Qualifications for annulment, also known as grounds for annulment, are very specific in Arizona. There must be a reason for invalidating the marriage, usually because one party could not give consent at the time of the marriage or because the marriage itself would have been illegal or prohibited.
A marriage can be considered null and void in cases where one or both parties are unable to consent to the marriage. In some cases, a party may not have been of sound mind to make legal choices for themselves at the time of the marriage. In others, one party may be rendered incapable of legal decision-making due to age.
Mental illness (at the time the marriage was entered into): When a person is deemed mentally ill and unable to make choices for themselves or a danger to themselves or others, they cannot legally enter into contracts with other people. Since marriage is considered a contract, any marriage entered into by a mentally ill person may be rendered null and void.
Anyone who is drunk, high, or otherwise intoxicated cannot legally consent to a contract. Marriages that take place when a person is extremely intoxicated and unable to consent can be annulled.
Children below the age of eighteen aren’t allowed to make legal decisions for themselves. In Arizona, teens aged sixteen or seventeen may marry with parental consent, while teens under sixteen may marry with parental consent and a signature of a Superior Court Judge. A marriage to an underage spouse without parental consent would be considered void.
Annulment may also apply to cases where consent was given under duress, or the lack of consent was ignored. These “forced” marriages, either through the threat or use of physical violence or the threat of legal or economic consequences if the spouse refuses to marry, are eligible for annulment.
The other class of marriages where annulment may be appropriate are marriages that should be legally prohibited from taking place. There are several reasons the law may have prohibitions against a marriage.
Incestuous marriages are prohibited by state law for a few reasons. One is to prevent people from inbreeding, which results in higher rates of birth defects. Another reason is that incestuous relationships can result in one party being forced to consent to a marriage.
Since both of these can cause significant complications for all parties involved, the state de facto prohibits incestuous marriages between a parent and child, grandparent and grandchild, aunt/uncle and niece/nephew, full or half-siblings, and first cousins. A blood relationship of this nature between the spouses is the only situation resulting in an automatic annulment.
Arizona only allows a person to have one legal spouse at a time. Marrying more than one person is regarded as both a moral and a legal hazard for those involved. As such, engaging in bigamy, or marrying multiple people, is strictly prohibited by state law. This can be grounds to annul a marriage, even if it is due to an improperly filed divorce or a forgotten marriage.
Deception or misrepresentation of one’s self, one’s finances, or one’s status can be grounds for annulment of a marriage. If someone doesn’t know whom they are marrying, they cannot make an informed choice about the marriage and cannot legally consent to it.
As such, fraud constitutes grounds for annulment. Similarly, if someone engages in a marriage only to obtain access to another person’s property or solely for another secondary motive (green card applications, etc.), this is also grounds to annul the marriage.
Consummation means the actualization of marriage via the first act of sexual intercourse. Failure to consummate a marriage is considered grounds for an annulment. In other words, a marriage can be deemed null and void if one of the partners does not consummate the marriage due to the inability or refusal to do so. Either spouse can petition the court for an annulment if the other is unable to consummate the marriage.
Fortunately, these grounds are usually discovered before too much time has passed in the marriage. This is helpful as it means that there is seldom the same difficulty in determining child custody and the division of assets that you may find in a divorce case. More specifically, less time transpired means that fewer assets were acquired, and if a marriage has been in place for an extremely short time, the likelihood that children are involved decreases.
If you find yourself in a situation to seek a near-term annulment, simplicity can serve you and your interests. The Arizona annulment attorneys at The Valley Law Group can help you deal with the matter swiftly so that you can return to your life with as little interruption as possible.
That being said, annulments can also occur after long periods of time together, as well. The longer the marriage has gone on, the more records you will have to go through and the more help you will need to make sure that every contract and agreement that you and your spouse engaged in during the course of the marriage is handled correctly.
In that case, it’s especially essential that you have experienced legal counsel on your side to ensure that the paperwork is carefully handled and that everything goes smoothly as you dissolve the marriage.
Below are some frequently asked questions about annulment. If you have further questions or would like to schedule a consultation, please contact us.
The assistance of an experienced divorce and annulment lawyer familiar with Arizona Family Courts can mean the difference between a lengthy divorce trial and a positive outcome for your annulment case.
To learn more about our annulment services, contact us today to schedule a consultation.
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