We have all heard different stories about how some people whom we may know, know of, or heard about, either firsthand or from someone other than one of the former spouses or even from TV, books or newspapers, or other writings, got an annulment instead of a divorce. Typically, the most common ground given for the annulment was that the marriage was very brief when the annulment was filed. That a Court will grant an annulment because the marriage has not lasted more than a very short time is a myth! Accordingly, when you heard that was the reason for an annulment, the source of your information is either mistaken or you were told about an annulment granted religiously, not by a Judge in a civil Court. What is likely to have happened is that the couple got a civil divorce then applied for and were granted a religious annulment. Then, whenever one of them is asked how the marriage ended, they only mention the annulment.
Oh, our law does indeed provide for annulment, but few people qualify for one. Marriages that qualify for annulment under Pennsylvania law must qualify as void or voidable. A void marriage is one which is actually prohibited by law. Here are some examples of void marriages.
— Either or both spouses to a common-law marriage were under 18. (But common law marriage was made unlawful if entered into on or after January 1, 2005.)
— Either party was mentally incompetent to enter into marriage.
— The parties were first cousins or even more closely related.
— Either party was already still married.
If you think your marriage qualifies as void, your annulment action will require testimony in Court to prove it. A very expensive process.
OK, that was void marriages. Now, let’s talk about voidable marriages.
— Either party was under 16.
— Either party was under 18 and that party did not have parental consent.
— Either party was drunk or high… but, if that is the case, the annulment must be filed within 60 days.
— Either party is physically unable to have intercourse. That is, again, physically unable, not unwilling, or unavailable. Just because sex did not happen does not necessarily make the marriage voidable. A party has to be physically unable to perform.
— Either party consented to the marriage because of fraud or duress (the “shotgun wedding” of the old Western movies, for example).
An important consideration in seeking the annulment of a voidable marriage is waiting too long to file the annulment. The Court will not allow a spouse to hold the threat of seeking annulment over the head of the other spouse once the voidable nature of the marriage is discovered. In other words, once you find out that your marriage is voidable, file annulment promptly… or forever hold your peace.
There is an even more important consideration regarding annulment: They cost MUCH more than a low-cost, simple, uncontested, no-fault divorce and they can be even more expensive if the other party does not want the marriage annulled. And, no, I do not handle annulments of any type for any reason. If you both want to end your marriage, a low-cost, simple, uncontested, no-fault divorce will suffice. If having the luxury of being able to say your marriage was annulled is important to you, start saving your money. You will need several thousand or more, not just a couple hundred.