It’s a question we get often: “because of factors x, y and z, do you think I can get my marriage annulled?” Rather than go through the dissolution process, people often hope that they can void their marriage in one fell swoop by qualifying for an annulment. While it may be a common question posed to family law attorneys, situations that actually qualify a person for an annulment are quite rare. There are two types of circumstances when people often wonder if annulment is an option for them: void marriages and voidable marriages.
What is a Void Marriage?
A void marriage is one that was never legitimate, or recognized as a valid marriage by the court, in the first place. In other words, it is void by the operation of law.
Circumstances that would be considered a void marriage include:
- Wedlock to a first cousin or a closer relative
- Bigamy - the act of going through a marriage ceremony while still legally married to another
- Polygamy - the practice of having more than one wife or husband at the same time
In these circumstances, annulments are not necessary or appropriate for the situation—the marriage was never valid under the law, so there are no binding legal ties to the perceived spouse. You do not need to address the court—you simply can leave the relationship.
What is a Voidable Marriage?
A voidable marriage is one that is legally legitimate, but under certain circumstances, could qualify for an annulment. Legitimate annulment inquiries will fall under this category. That being said, if one spouse is made aware of the deception and stays in the marriage for a period of time after the discovery, their grounds for annulment can and likely will be waived.
What Qualifies You for an Annulment?
Circumstances when a marriage could be considered voidable are:
- The marriage consent was obtained by force or fraud.
- One or both of the spouses are under the age of 18 and are seeking annulment while still a minor.
- One or both spouses were unable to consent to the marriage because of incompetence or mental capacity.
As stated before, situations when a couple may actually qualify for an annulment in Oregon are incredibly rare. People often hope that they might qualify if they’ve only been married for a short period of time, if their spouse cheated on them before and during the marriage, or if the marriage was only entered in order for one spouse to get citizenship. While these situations are unfortunate, they will not qualify either spouse for an annulment—they’ll have to go through a proper dissolution proceeding.
Is Annulment Easier than Divorce?
It should be noted that, often times, it’s actually easier for parties to undergo a dissolution of marriage (AKA a divorce) rather than trying to pursue an annulment. The reason for this is because annulments can be contested, or challenged. If the two parties are not in agreement on the validity of the circumstances that would make the marriage invalid, they will have to go before the court, which can be a costly and timely process. Divorce, on the other hand, cannot be contested—if one party wants to leave the marriage, the other spouse cannot argue against that right. Most often, people who are considering annulments have only been married for a short period of time, so going through the motions of a dissolution may actually be a simpler process.
If you genuinely feel that you were a victim of wrongful wedlock, it’s important you call an attorney to discuss the details of your situation so that they can help you determine if annulment is a viable option. Call us today at (888) 981-9511 to set up a consultation and start working towards your better tomorrow.