Sometimes people ask about having their marriage terminated by an annulment as opposed to a divorce. While Texas is a no fault state for divorce, meaning anyone can file for divorce at any time, annulments are only available in limited circumstances.
The Difference Between Annulments and Divorces
An annulment is a court order that declares a marriage void. The legal effect of a court ordered annulment is that the marriage never legally occurred.
Divorce is the legal mechanism for terminating a marriage. This means that a marriage existed and, as a result of the divorce, the marriage terminated.
There are two difference between an annulment and a divorce. The first difference is whether or not a legal marriage existed. The second difference is whether there is community property to divide between the parties.
In an annulment, there is no community property because there is no valid marriage. The court still, if necessary, decides which individual is the rightful owner of any property that the parties acquired during the voided marriage.
Grounds For An Annulment
Texas is a no fault divorce state which means that divorce is available to either spouse at any time for any reason. However, annulments are only available in limited circumstances.
Texas law authorizes annulments for the following reasons:
- The marriage involved someone between the ages of 16 and 18 and it occurred without parental consent.
- The person seeking the annulment was under the influence of alcohol or drugs and did not possess the requisite mental capacity to consent to the marriage.
- Either party was impotent at the time of the marriage and the person seeking the annulment was unaware at the time of the marriage.
- The person seeking the annulment was subject to fraud, duress, or force in entering into the marriage.
- The person seeking the annulment did not have the mental capacity to enter into a marriage relationship.
- If the other party concealed a divorce that was final within 30 days of the date of the marriage and the party seeking the annulment files within the first year of marriage.
- If the marriage occurred within 72 hours of the issuance of the marriage license and the party seeking annulment files within the first 30 days of the marriage.
Time Alone Is Not Grounds For An Annulment
There is a common myth that anyone can get an annulment within the first six months of marriage. This is not true.
The length of the marriage is not a basis for seeking an annulment.
Benefits To Annulment Versus Divorce
So what are the benefits of getting an annulment instead of a divorce?
The primary benefit is property division. If the marriage is annulled, then there is no community property and each “spouse” keeps the property they would own if the marriage never occurred.
In a divorce, any community property is subject to division.
For some religions, there may be a benefit to avoiding the stigma of a divorce.
Annulments Do Not Affect Child Custody or Support
If the parties to an annulment parented any children, then a court does not decide issues concerning the children as part of the annulment. Issues involving children of the remain and must be addressed in a Suit Affecting the Parent Child Relationship.
An annulled marriage does not terminate either parent’s duty to support their child or their right to possession and access of a child.
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