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Can I get an annulment?

Dec 07

Recently, someone came into my office and told me that her and her husband has been married for about a week and it just wasn’t working out. She wanted to know if she could get the marriage annulled instead of having to get a divorce since they were only married a week. Actually, this question comes up more than you would think. People often get married and realize very soon afterward that it was a terrible mistake — that it all just happened too fast. Most times, however, the answer is no – you cannot annul or vacate the marriage based on the fact that you have only been married a short time.

 An annulment decree is a ruling that there was never a valid marriage. A divorce is the dissolution of a valid marriage based upon occurrences after the marriage was entered into.  Annulment treats it as though it never existed. There are no Alabama laws officially setting forth the grounds for annulment, or specifying the jurisdiction of the Court to enter one. The law of annulment is based on the “common law” which, generally, is law made by previous court rulings. Alabama Courts follow the general rule that makes a distinction between “void and voidable marriages.” The distinction between void and voidable is subtle, but very important in interpreting the law. Any marriage can be “voidable,” which means that there is a legal procedure to dissolve it; however, a “void” marriage is one that never was legal to start with and, therefore, totally invalid. Void marriages can be annulled. Voidable marriages must be divorced.

 In other words, for a marriage to be “illegal” or “void” and capable of annulment, it had to have been based on facts which could never be the basis for a legal marriage. For example, the following circumstances have been considered as grounds for annulet in previous cases:  1) at the time of the marriage ceremony, one of the parties had a living spouse from whom they had never been legally  divorced; 2) One of the parties was under the age of legal consent at the time of the marriage; 3) one of the parties was of unsound mind at the time of the marriage ceremony, i.e. mentally incompetent; 4) one of the parties was forced to entered into the marriage (your basic shotgun wedding); 5) One party was under the influence of alcohol or drugs to the extent that it prevent him or her from understanding what he or she was doing (a Las Vegas marriage to a person you don’t know); 6) at the time of the marriage, the bride was pregnant by a man other than the groom and this fact was not disclosed to the groom at the time; 7) the parties are too closely related to legally marry (anything closer than first cousins in Alabama); 8) One of the parties had an undisclosed deadly or harmful disease at the time of the marriage; or 9) One of the parties knew they were incapable of having children and did not disclose such information to the other party before the wedding.

 So, if you find yourself wishing that you had said “I don’t” instead of “I do” the day after the marriage you’re going to have to get a divorce unless one of the above factors apply

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