Marriage annulments have been around for centuries. In fact, hundreds of years ago divorce was not allowed or legal in many parts of the world, because the laws relating to marriage fell under the jurisdiction of the church. You may have learned about King Henry VIII, who was famous for having six wives, annulled his marriage to two of them. Thus, the word annulment has some historical significance, as well as a religious significance. Even today, many religions require someone to get an annulment of their marriage even after they are civilly divorced. Getting a religious annulment allows someone to get remarried or be in good standing with their religion.
In addition to religious annulments, there are grounds and circumstances where a person can secure a legal annulment. They are not nearly as popular as a divorce or legal separation, but they do happen and can be advantageous in certain circumstances. Also, remember that there is a difference between a religious annulment and a civil one. Getting a civil annulment may not automatically result in a religious annulment. A civil annulment is what is being discussed below.
Arizona recognizes annulments under Chapter 3 of Title 25 of the Arizona Revised Statutes. Specifically, A.R.S. § 25-301 gives power to the Superior Courts to dissolve and adjudge a marriage to be null and void. However, keep in mind that obtaining an annulment does not automatically erase everything that occurred between you and your spouse during the marriage. In fact, the jurisdictional requirements of a divorce, along with the property division and obligations of children that fall under a divorce will be handled the same way in an annulment.
There are specific requirements that one must meet before they can ask for an annulment. It is not as simple as requesting a divorce or legal separation. If you do not meet one of the requirements, you will be required to go the divorce or legal separation route. You need to show the court that the marriage was invalid from the beginning.
In your Petition for Annulment you must state that your marriage is void for one of the listed reasons. The reasons are fairly broad and can interpret different things. The reasons include:
- absence of mental capacity,
- absence of physical capacity,
- absence of a valid marriage license,
- blood relationship,
- concealment of prior marital status,
- duress, fraud,
- lack of contractual intent,
- misrepresentation as to religion,
- proxy marriage,
- refusal of intercourse,
- secret attempt not to abide by ante-nuptial agreement,
- undissolved prior marriage.
For example, fraud could be fairly vague. A party may have lied to his/her spouse about who they were. Maybe they told their spouse they worked for the church, but instead were really a criminal. The other party does not have to necessarily agree with you that this is true, however. It will be the party asking for the annulment to prove that they meet the requirement. If they are unable to, the judge will not grant the annulment.
Additionally, remember that an annulment will not erase everything that has happened. You and your spouse will have likely acquired property together that needs to be divided. You may also have children together. A parenting plan and child support will need to be set up. Paternity will likely have been presumed due to the fact that the parties were married.
People tend to find that the biggest advantage of an annulment is that it appears as though the marriage never existed. This may be very important for some people who want to remarry or start over.