While there are similarities between divorce and annulment proceedings in Arizona, there is a significant difference. The dissolution of a legally valid marriage can only be attained through a divorce, while a marriage that was not valid from the beginning can be annulled.
If you have questions about divorce or annulment, Cohen Family Law can help. While annulment is not an option for most couples, we will take the time to explain the process and take the appropriate legal action to end your marriage. Contact our Phoenix office today for a consultation.
What Is An Annulment?
People often think of annulment in terms of a religious annulment in which a church declares a marriage annulled, but there is a civil annulment procedure under Arizona law. Although annulment of marriage is rare, the procedure is available if there are legal grounds.
Marital relationships that are either “void” or “voidable” are subject to annulment proceedings. A void marriage is one that is null and void at the outset, such as a prohibited marriage (e.g. marriage between a brother and sister). In a voidable marriage, one of the parties has a right to annul the marriage but has yet to exercise that right. Grounds for annulment in Arizona include:
Duress or Lack of Consent
A valid marriage requires voluntary consent. If someone is forced to marry under threat of serious physical harm or domestic violence, the marriage is voidable and may be annulled.
Insanity, Mental Illness, Lack of Mental Capacity
To be valid, marriage also requires contractual intent. A person who is insane, mentally ill, or substantially mentally challenged may lack the mental capacity to give legal consent to marrying and entering into a marriage contract.
A fraudulent marriage occurs when one of the parties is untruthful or misrepresents facts or information to induce the other party into marriage. Fraudulent marriages are often connected to immigration crimes when a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident enters into a marriage with an immigrant for the purpose of evading immigration laws.
If someone was intoxicated or under the influence of drugs at the time the marriage took place and that individual was unable to understand the consequences of entering into the marriage contract, then the marriage may be annulled.
Impotency, Inability to Consummate the Marriage
Annulment on the grounds of impotency requires the complaining party to prove that (1) the other party was permanently and incurably impotent when the marriage took place and (2) the condition was not discovered until after the marriage.
Lack of Parental Consent to Underage Marriage
Under Arizona law, there is an age requirement to enter into a marital contract. A child under the age of 18 (but older than 16) must have the consent of his or her parent or guardian to legally marry unless that person has received emancipation under Arizona law or the laws of another state.
Incestuous Marriage Annulment
Marriage between parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren of every degree, brothers and sisters of the one-half and whole blood, uncles and nieces, aunts and nephews, and first cousins (with one exception for those age 65 or older), is prohibited and void under Arizona law.
Bigamy, which is considered a felony under Arizona law, occurs when a person enters into another marriage before a previous marriage is legally terminated through divorce.
The annulment process is necessary to establish for the record that no marriage exists. Once a marriage is annulled, each party is free to marry someone else without the need for a divorce; however, both parties forfeit their rights to community property and spousal maintenance (alimony). At the same time, the court will make determinations about legal decision-making, parenting time, child support, and the division of property and debts.
Annulment is Not A Substitute For Divorce
An annulment will not be granted if the court determines that a valid marriage exists. Moreover, the annulment process is not an expedited divorce. Even a marriage of short duration is considered valid and can only be legally dissolved through a divorce proceeding.
If you have questions about annulment in Arizona, legal separation, or divorce, we can help. Our experienced attorneys can help determine whether or not your marriage is valid and explore your options. Although civil annulment is rare, we can help you navigate the process. We also have extensive experience handling divorce cases and can help you take the necessary legal steps to end your marriage.
Contact Our Experienced Arizona Annulment and Divorce Attorneys
If you believe you have entered into a void or voidable marriage, you need the advice and guidance of an experienced annulment attorney. However, if it turns out that your marriage is valid, then your only option is divorce. Regardless of your circumstances, we will provide you with compassionate representation and help you move on with the next chapter in your life. Contact us today to learn how we can help.