Annulments “undo” a Massachusetts marriage by treating the couple as if no marriage had ever occurred. If one party was not legally able to enter a marriage because, for example, they were already married to someone else, the marriage is “void” from the beginning. If there is some other reason why the marriage should not be recognized, such as fraud, then the marriage is “voidable.” Annulments are rarely granted by the courts and should only be sought when the facts clearly show that the marriage is invalid.
Annulments for “Void” Marriages
If the marriage is void, the parties are not required to file for an annulment. However, to be on the safe side, it is highly recommended that you do. A marriage can be void for three reasons:
- The parties are too closely related by blood (consanguinity). For example, a sister cannot marry her brother.
- The parties are too closely related through marriage (affinity). For example, a step-mother cannot marry her step-son.
- One person was married to someone else at the time they married the second person (bigamy). However, if the person is now seeking an annulment knew at the time of the marriage about the prior marriage, they cannot seek an annulment.
Note: The reason you give for claiming that the marriage was void must be the actual reason you left your spouse.
Annulments for “Voidable” Marriages
An annulment is also available for voidable marriages. The party must file a “Complaint for Annulment” in the Probate and Family Court in order to undo the marriage. Voidable marriages occur when:
- One spouse lacked the capacity to marry. This includes cases where one spouse was not of legal age to be married and did not seek parental or judicial consent for the marriage. The legal age in Massachusetts for marriage is 18.
- There was fraud going to the essence of the marriage contract. For example, one party entered the marriage solely to avoid deportation and led the other party to believe otherwise.
- One spouse was under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the marriage ceremony such that he or she did not have capacity to consent to the marriage.
To file for an annulment, you follow the same procedures for a divorce. The effect of an annulment is that the parties are treated as if they never married.
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If you are considering an annulment, it is advisable to speak with an attorney about your situation. Annulments has complicated legal consequences.
It is important to note that in the absence of a separate support action, the children born to the parties may be considered illegitimate and unable to inherit from the other party. Additionally, alimony is not available in an annulment action.
If the parties were not married in Massachusetts, the party seeking the annulment must reside in the state for 5 years prior to the annulment or the party seeking the annulment must have resided in Massachusetts at the time of the marriage and at the time of filing the Complaint for Annulment. The rules in the state where the marriage took place govern the annulment.
Should you be in the midst of or seeking an annulment, contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar at 978-844-4095 to schedule a FREE one hour no obligation consultation.