There are specific circumstances under which a couple may seek an annulment instead of a divorce in the state of Arizona. Many people believe that annulment is only a process that pertains to religious organizations, wherein a person will receive an annulment of their marriage through the official process of that particular religion. It is important to note that there is a distinction between a legal annulment and a religious annulment. Learn more about your legal rights, if you qualify for a legal annulment in Arizona, and how this process differs from a divorce.
Divorce vs. Annulment in Arizona
The difference between a divorce and annulment is that a divorce terminates a legally valid marriage, while an annulment legally determines that a marriage was never legally valid from its beginning. In the case of a divorce, both parties will become legally separated and free to marry others. An annulment indicates that a legal marriage never actually occurred and legally confirms that the marriage was never valid.
Common-Law Marriages vs. Annulment in Arizona
The state of Arizona does not recognize common-law marriages. Therefore, regardless of the amount of time you have lived with another person, or held yourself out to be married, for all legal purposes, you are not married, and will not need to go through either the annulment or divorce process in Arizona. However, if you do have children together, you will need to ensure your legal rights are protected with respect to your children by creating a legally binding parenting plan, determining child custody and visitation matters, and calculating child support through the Arizona courts.
Prohibited Marriages in Arizona
There are certain marriages that are prohibited by law in the state of Arizona, and therefore legally invalid from the start. In some cases, these marriages are referred to as “nullified”, “void”, or “voidable” marriages. Understanding the different types of prohibited marriages can help you determine if you have the legal right to pursue an annulment in Arizona.
Any marriage between close relatives would be considered void from the beginning, as incestuous relationships are against the law in the state of Arizona. Arizona prohibits close relatives such as parents/children, grandparents/grandchildren, brothers/sisters of one-half or whole blood, first cousins, uncles/nieces or aunts/nephews from legally marrying under A.R.S. § 25-101. Therefore, if you discover or it is determined that your marriage is to a close family relative, you can receive an annulment in Arizona.
Duress or Coercion
If one party forces the other to marry under duress or through coercion, the marriage can later be annulled in Arizona. Some examples of duress or coercion could include the requirement of marriage under the threat of violence, or forcing another person to marry under the penalty of serious physical or emotional harm to them or another person. Any duress or coercion that causes another person to marry will be grounds for an annulment in Arizona.
Lacking Mental Capacity or Insanity
If one person lacks the mental capacity, has a significant mental illness, or has been declared legally insane, they do not have the mental ability to consent to the marriage. Therefore, the marriage is considered invalid due to the fact that a valid marriage requires that both parties understand the contractual intent they are entering into when they agree to marry. It is important to note that it is the person’s mental capacity at the time of the marriage that is relevant, not the development of a mental illness at a later time. If there is an instance of temporary insanity, then the court will look to what the circumstances were regarding the mental health of both parties at the actual time of the marriage.
If one person intentionally misrepresents any material or significant facts or information that then establishes a foundation upon which the other party makes the decision to marry, the marriage can be considered invalid. No party is legally allowed to trick, manipulate, or fraudulently induce another person into marriage.
If one person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the marriage, the marriage can be considered voidable, and the parties will be granted an annulment in Arizona. Marriage requires a contractual meeting of the minds where both parties have full knowledge and understanding of the agreement they are making. If one or both parties are intoxicated, the marriage may be annulled at a later time.
Inability to Consummate the Marriage
If one party is impotent or unable to consummate the marriage and kept that fact secret until after the marriage took place, this may be a foundation for annulment in Arizona.
In order to enter into a valid marriage in the state of Arizona, both parties must either be 18 years of age or have a parent or guardian’s consent to legally marry. If one party is under the age of 16, it will require the approval of a Superior Court Judge.
If the parties never intended the marriage to be legally binding, the marriage can be annulled in Arizona. Examples of this include marrying someone in order to obtain citizenship, or in order to remain in the United States for a longer period of time.
If one person remains married, they are unable to marry another person unless they receive a divorce or annulment from that first marriage. If one person has married two people at the same time, it is referred to ask bigamy and considered a class 5 felony under A.R.S. § 13-3606.
How to Obtain an Annulment in Arizona
If you believe that your marriage falls under one of these categories, you may have the legal right to obtain an annulment in Arizona. It is important to note that annulment is not a quick divorce, and again rests upon whether or not the parties had a valid marriage at the beginning of the marriage. In order to obtain an annulment in the state of Arizona, one party must actually submit a Petition for Annulment to the court, and state the reason upon which the marriage should be declared void and invalid in order to obtain an annulment. One party may file a Petition for Annulment Without Children or a Petition for Annulment With Children depending on their facts and circumstances. A court will make a legal determination after reviewing the evidence as to whether or not there was a legally valid marriage. If the court determines that there was no legally valid marriage for any of the aforementioned reasons, then the parties will be granted an annulment in Arizona.
Legal Logistics of Annulment in Arizona
If two parties do not have children, were not married for long, and do not have any combined marital property, the legal process should be a simple and quick one if there is a valid legal basis for the annulment. The actual length of the marriage has no bearing on whether or not two people can obtain an annulment in Arizona.
Therefore, in some cases, a voidable marriage occurred and led to children, joint assets, or the purchase of joint property. In these cases, whether or not the marriage is annulled, or the parties’ divorce, there will need to be legal determinations made regarding child custody matters, child support calculations, and the equitable division of property acquired during the time the two parties were together. Contacting an experienced family law attorney can help you determine what steps you need to take if you are considering the process of annulment in Arizona.
Why File for Annulment in Arizona?
If you truly believe that you did not have a valid marriage in the state of Arizona, it may benefit you both emotionally and legally to file for an annulment. If you receive an annulment it will be as if you were never married for all legal purposes. This may be important to you given the unique facts and circumstances of your case, or for emotional or religious reasons. Ultimately, if you have the right to obtain an annulment in Arizona, you should do so as it will declare the first marriage completely null and void as if it never actually existed.
Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney
If you are considering filing for an annulment in Arizona, you may have several questions about the process and whether or not your specific situation would warrant an annulment. We welcome the opportunity to help you learn how you may have the right to file for an annulment in Arizona. Our experienced family law attorneys can help you understand what the annulment process would entail depending on whether or not you have children, joint assets, and the basis upon which you believe you have the legal right to file for an annulment. Contact one of our experienced family law attorneys at My Modern Law in Scottsdale, Mesa, Peoria, or Phoenix, Arizona who can provide you with answers and ensure your legal rights remain protected. Contact us at (480) 470-7731 or online today.