Every once and a while, a client will walk into our office with the hope of annulling their marriage. Sometimes they are seeking the annulment for religious reasons, and other times they are seeking an annulment because they feel betrayed by their partner. However, regardless of the client’s reasons, I usually find that my potential clients have no idea what an annulment really is, and they usually want one because culturally it does not sound as bad as the D-word.
When I sit down to discuss the possibility of an annulment with a client, the first thing I do explain is what the difference is between a divorce and an annulment. The primary difference between a divorce and an annulment is that when parties get an annulment, it means that the Court has found that the parties’ marriage was invalid and that the marriage never actually existed.
Now, unlike popular belief, the parties cannot just agree that the marriage was a huge mistake, and thus their marriage is annulled. Instead the parties must demonstrate to the Court that their marriage was invalid for one of the following reasons set forth in C.R.S. 14-10-111(1):
- A party lacked capacity to consent to the marriage at the time the marriage was solemnized, either because of mental incapacity or infirmity or because of the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other incapacitating substances.
- A party lacked the physical capacity to consummate the marriage by sexual intercourse, and the other party did not at the time the marriage was solemnized know of the incapacity.
- A party was under the age as provided by law and did not have the consent of his parents or guardian or judicial approval as provided by law. (In Colorado this is under 18)
- One party entered into the marriage in reliance upon a fraudulent act or representation of the other party, which fraudulent act or representation goes to the essence of the marriage.
- One or both parties entered into the marriage under duress exercised by the other party or a third party, whether or not such other party knew of such exercise of duress.
- One or both parties entered into the marriage as a jest or dare.
- The marriage is prohibited by law, including the following: One of the parties was still married to someone else; the marriage was with aunt, uncle, sibling or parent; the marriage was void by law in Colorado.
If one of the above specific incidents applies in your case, then you need to file a petition for declaration of invalidity with the Court. If the Court considers your petition and agrees that your marriage is invalid, then the court still has jurisdiction to enter orders on all the issues that arise in a typical divorce case, these issues include:
- Property distribution.
- Maintenance (alimony).
- Allocation of parental responsibilities (Child Custody).
- Child support.
- Attorney’s fees.
Thus, it is important to note that even if you successfully annul your marriage, do not assume that your case will go smoothly without a contested hearing almost identical to a contested divorce case.
In you are not sure if you should consider an annulment, please call the Jones Law Firm, P.C. to schedule a free initial consultation. At that consultation an experienced family law attorney will talk to you about your unique circumstances, and determine whether pursuing an annulment is right for you.