Some folks, for various reasons — ranging from religious objections to a wish to avoid the liability for debts incurred by their spouse during the marriage — want to get an annulment rather than filing for a divorce.
The difference between a divorce and an annulment is this: a divorce ends a valid marriage. An annulment declares that the marriage was not valid in the first place.
The distinction matters: if the marriage was never valid in the first place, then everything in your name goes to you, and everything in your spouse’s name goes to them. This can have a huge impact on the financial aspects of splitting up. If you have children together, it will legally “bastardize” your child, which few people want, and the courts will almost never do.
Just like a divorce, you must have grounds for an annulment. They include:
- Bigomy. One of the parties is still married to someone else.
- Violation of the “Marriage Act.” Call our office (865.637.6550) for more details on that one.
- Lack of Consummation. One of the parties refused to have sex.
- Jest. The “just kidding” rule – folks not serious about getting married.
- Legitimation. Marriage for the sole purpose of legitimating a child.
- Mental illness. Someone did not have the mental capacity to know what they were doing.
- Impotence. Someone is incurably unable to have children.
- Duress. Someone was literally forced into it by threat, force, kidnapping, etc.
- Fraud. Someone lied for the purpose of convincing the other person to marry them, and it harmed them financially or otherwise to get married.
- One of the parties is under the age of sixteen (16) years. (TCA 36-3-105.)
Even if you have technical grounds to get an annulment, it may not be in your best interest to do so.
Annulments are almost never appropriate in marriages that have existed for a long time or for parties who have children, for example, because it “bastardizes” the child, thus removing a potential source for financial support for the child, as well as substantial legal rights, such as the right to inherit.
Annulments may or may not make sense from a financial perspective as well. For instance, if the two of you have accumulated debt, an annulment may not give you the debt relief that a divorce would, or might strip you of your right to take title to property you would otherwise have a claim to by virtue of the marriage. An annulment might remove your ability to collect alimony you might be entitled to.
The only way to really know whether an annulment is a good option for you is to discuss the specific facts of your case with an experienced attorney. Focus your questions especially on the specific facts about how your assets and debts are titled, who makes the money in the family, and most importantly, what the relationship of any children is with both parents. Annulments are rarely a good option for marriages of long duration, but can be a viable option to protect your assets, and yourself from debt collectors, for short marriages.
Do you want to consult an attorney about whether or not annulment is a good option for you? Attorney Margaret Held can help. Call 865-685-4780 to schedule a case assessment.