There is genuine confusion surrounding the legal definition of annulment and some of the core issues underlying it. Consequently, spouses make the mistake of seeking an order for annulment when they should be filing for the dissolution of their marriage or vice versa. For this reason, it is imperative to have a competent and qualified attorney by your side who will help give you a breakdown of the law applicable in your case and the options you have in your case.
Noteworthy is that an annulment is distinct from a divorce. Whereas a divorce constitutes the termination of a valid marriage, an annulment is a declaration of invalidity of marriage from its very beginning.
There is a strong presumption in favor of marriage in Missouri under the law and public policy. To get an annulment in court, a party must have compelling and robust evidence to support their claim.
Annulment applies to two distinct categories of challenged marriages: void and voidable marriages. Put briefly, a void marriage is always a nullity, while a voidable marriage is only valid until a judgment declares it void.
Here is a further breakdown of all you need to know about annulments in Missouri and how an attorney can help you.
Divorce V Annulment: What’s the Difference?
Often, legal terms such as divorce and annulment are used interchangeably when one is seeking to end a marriage. However, using these terms interchangeably can be misleading because they are distinct and have different effects on the validity of the marriage.
Put briefly, a divorce denotes dissolution or legal termination of a marriage but recognizes that the marriage existed at one time. On the other hand, an annulment denotes a declaration that the purported marriage was not valid from the very beginning. An annulment considers the marriage to have been non-existent even though the parties thought they were married. At the same time, a divorce terminates an existing marriage at the divorce judgment date.
That said, a divorce and an annulment have distinct effects in the eyes of the law, especially in Missouri. Therefore, if you are considering one of the options, it is imperative to speak to a competent attorney concerning fundamental issues that may arise during the proceedings.
What are the Grounds for Annulment in Missouri?
In the recent past, courts in Missouri have been reluctant to grant an order for annulment on the grounds of public policy. Therefore, in order to have a court grant an order for an annulment, you need to table satisfactory and compelling evidence to support your claim.
However, the court has granted an order for annulment where the moving party has demonstrated the following:
Marriage is recognized as a voluntary union between two parties. In simpler terms, for a marriage to be valid, the core element of consent must exist. This is to say that a marriage entered into during a time of duress by either party may qualify for an annulment.
Duress, a ground for annulment, means that the moving party was coerced, blackmailed, or tricked into the marriage.
Like most contracts, parties entering into a marriage must have mental capacity. Often when a party seeks an annulment on the grounds of mental incapacity, the court will ask whether one party had the mental capacity to know or understand the nature of the contract being entered into. Suppose the answer is not in the affirmative due to reasons such as insanity or intoxication. In that case, the court is likely to consider the marriage void and grant an order for annulment.
Refusal or Inability to Consummate
An order for annulment may be granted if the marriage was never consummated. This may arise in cases where one spouse cannot consummate the marriage and has concealed this fact from the other spouse.
If one of the parties entered into a marriage contract on the grounds of fraud, they have legal recourse. The party may seek a grant of annulment from the court by proving that the other spouse lied about a fundamental issue that would have affected their decision to marry. For example, if the other party lied about their sexual orientation, age, or ability to conceive, the court may consider this sufficient evidence to annul the marriage.
Other Grounds for Annulment in Missouri
Apart from the grounds mentioned above, there are other grounds for annulment that the court has considered when granting the orders sought after. The following are some of the other grounds for annulment:
- A bigamous marriage
- A marriage where one party is below 15 years (without judicial consent)
- Marriage between related persons, often those within close degrees of consanguinity
- Common law marriages entered into after 1921.
What is the Effect of an Annulment?
Once an order for annulment is granted, the marriage is considered to have never existed, and the couples were never married. Moreover, alimony or spousal maintenance is not available after the annulment.
However, the court may make orders regarding custody and maintenance of children of an annulled marriage if they were born during the marriage or within 300 days after the date of annulment.
If you or someone you know is having difficulty understanding the distinguishing characteristics and effects of an annulment and a divorce, it may help to turn to an attorney. In essence, an attorney will help provide answers to these questions and, at the same time, help you understand the legal options available.
Contact us today for a free case evaluation.