Massachusetts is a no-fault divorce state which means that as long as you show that the marital relationship is over, you can obtain a divorce. For some people, however, there are religious or social beliefs that may result in a need for an annulment. A legal annulment is different than a religious annulment and are not connected. Often, people have clauses in their divorce agreement that neither party will oppose a religious annulment or religious divorce. Legally, the difference between the two is that a divorce will end a marriage whereas an annulment determines there never was a legal marriage from the start. It is if the marriage never happened. If the marriage was not valid from the beginning, it is possible to receive an annulment if your marital relationship qualifies under a limited set of circumstances.
Do you qualify for an annulment?
There is a popular belief that you can receive an annulment if the marriage was short. Unfortunately, this is not true (although the length of the marriage can sometimes be a factor in determining if there are legal grounds for an annulment). The fact that the marriage was extremely brief does not qualify for an annulment. There are specific legal guidelines for granting an annulment. In fact, the requirements are so strict that many eventually choose a no-fault divorce, because it is just easier. In Massachusetts, the marriage needs to be void or voidable to qualify for an annulment.
The Massachusetts Court System identifies the requirements in both categories.
- When one person is already married, or
- One has married a close relative as defined by statute.
- One spouse does not have the mental capacity to consent to marriage,
- One spouse is not physically able to have sexual intercourse,
- One spouse is not a legal age for marriage, or
- Fraud was used as the basis of the marriage.
Most of the above issues are cut and dry, The one issue that can significantly vary is fraud. It has to be to the essence of the marriage. The fact that one partner was cheating on the other at the time they got married is not considered that type of fraud that goes to the essence of the marriage even though it would be a fault ground in a divorce. One example of fraud that goes to the essence of the marriage would be if one person married the other in order to obtain a green card for immigration purposes.
If you believe that you fit under any of these qualifiers, you can apply for an annulment in Massachusetts by filing a Complaint for Annulment. Either spouse (and in some cases the guardian of a spouse) can file. There will be a court date, and the petitioner must provide proof to the court. A judge will them make the final decision unless both Parties agree to the annulment.
Attorney Schutzbank has experience representing clients in annulment cases. If you would like to speak with Attorney Schutzbank about possibly obtaining an annulment in Massachusetts, or need more information, please contact our office to schedule a consultation.