How is an Annulment different from a Divorce?
After a divorce, you are no longer married – but the marriage remains legally valid for the time period it existed (from the ceremony to the date of the divorce decree). With an annulment, a Texas court issues a judgment that your marriage never existed: it was invalid under the law and will not be recognized.
Ending a marriage by annulment erases that marriage – it is as if the marriage never happened, insofar as the law is concerned. Because this is a very powerful result, Texas statutes only allow an annulment in certain circumstances and only then, if the right evidence is provided to the court.
When Can a Marriage Be Annulled in Texas?
Under Texas law a marriage can be annulled if, at the time of the marriage:
- one party was under the age of 14 years old,
- if the person petitioning the court for the annulment was under the influence of alcohol or narcotics at the time,
- if one party concealed they were just divorced within 30 days before the marriage,
- if the marriage took place less than 72 hours after the license was issued,
- if one of the married persons suffers from permanent impotency;
- if the marriage occurred due to fraud, duress, or force;
- if one of the married persons suffers a mental incapacity,
- if the married couple are too closely related (you cannot marry your parent, your child, your sibling, your aunt, uncle, nephew, or niece); or
- if one of the married persons is already married to another (bigamy).
The last two circumstances (bigamy and too closely related, or “consanguinity”) are considered so serious under the law that these marriages are considered VOID and are not recognized in any way under Texas law. The remaining circumstances created voidable marriages – they can be annulled if the parties choose to do so; however, they can also ultimately be recognized as valid marriages under the law.
How Do Annulments Work In Texas? How Are They Different from a Divorce?
To have a marriage annulled in Texas, a petition for annulment is filed with the local District Court. You must prove your case with proper evidence, establishing the grounds of the particular circumstance.
They differ from divorces because they are granted immediately, if you meet your burden of proof (you must wait 60 days for a divorce in Texas). They also differ from divorces because of the lack of privacy involved: in a divorce, you need not establish anything more than incompatibility because Texas is a “no fault” state. With an annulment, you must provide sufficient evidence which can be quite personal and sometimes, embarrassing.
Proving Grounds for Annulment
The two bases for a void marriage in Texas – bigamy and consanguinity -- are easily proven by public documentation (prior marriage licenses and birth certificates). However, proving the grounds for voidable marriages can be more complicated and costly.
For those who married while under the age of 14, the request for annulment must be filed within 90 days of the 14th birthday, or within 90 days of the date when the parent, managing conservator, or friend of the court discovers the marriage exists. If the minor is between the ages of 14 and 18, and the marriage happened without parental consent or a court order, then the annulment must be filed before the minor turns 18.
Under the Influence
If you were drunk or high, legally intoxicated by alcohol or drugs, then a marriage is not valid no matter how old you are. However, you must immediately distance yourself from your marriage partner upon discovery of the marriage – you cannot marry while intoxicated, live together for awhile, and then decide to get an annulment. In that instance, you must file for a formal divorce.
If either person was “permanently impotent” at the time of the marriage, then the marriage can be annulled. This is considered to be any physical or mental condition that keeps the person from being able to have sexual relations with the marriage partner. It must be a discovery that occurs after the marriage, and the annulment must be requested immediately after the discovery of impotency happens. Wait too long and you must file for divorce, not annulment.
Fraud, Duress, or Force
Anytime anyone is tricked or forced into getting married, and can prove this happened, then they can have the marriage annulled under Texas law.
An annulment can be granted on grounds of mental incapacity if at the time of the marriage, one person lacked the mental capacity to consent to wed or to understand what marriage is, either due to mental illness or mental defect.
If someone marries within 30 days of being divorced, then that marriage is voidable and subject to annulment if this was not revealed to the new spouse prior to the marriage.
Marriage Too Fast After Getting the License
A marriage is voidable and can be annulled if it happens before 3 days (72 hours) have passed after getting the marriage license. The annulment must be requested within 30 days of the marriage ceremony.
If you believe that you or a minor or incapacitated loved one may need a marriage to be annulled, then please feel free to contact the Law Office of Michael Granada for a paid, initial legal consultation on annulments. We’re here to help you.