FAMILY LAW ATTORNEYS HELPING RESIDENTS OF ATLANTA
Many people automatically think of divorce when they think of ending a marriage. However, although it is not as common as divorce, an annulment may be more appropriate in some circumstances. Technically, it does not dissolve a marriage. Instead, it is a declaration that a marriage never existed in the first place, legally establishing that the marriage itself was invalid from its inception. If you are interested in this option, the family law lawyers at Rowsey & Stelter can help you pursue an annulment in the Atlanta area.
THE PROCESS OF SEEKING A CIVIL ANNULMENT
The term “annulment” can be used in two contexts: religious and civil. Both types of annulment are declarations that a marriage is invalid. However, a religious annulment can only be granted by a church or clergy member, and the grounds for a religious annulment are defined by the particular church involved.
A civil annulment, however, is sought under state law. In order to pursue it successfully, you will have to prove that you have legally valid grounds for it, such as if:
- Either or both parties were mentally incompetent to consent to marriage at the time of the marriage ceremony;
- Either or both parties were under 18 at the time of the ceremony, and the underage party or parties did not have their parents’ or legal guardian’s consent;
- Either or both parties underwent the marriage ceremony as a result of fraud or coercion;
- The parties are of the same sex;
- One or both of the parties are or were legally married to another person at the time of the marriage; or
- The parties are closely related by blood or marriage.
If any of these grounds exist, it may be possible to obtain an annulment. However, there are cases in which a court will still not grant an annulment even under these circumstances. For example, if the couple becomes pregnant or if they already have children, an annulment will not be granted. Instead, the couple will have to obtain a divorce. Or, if one of the parties was induced to marry by fraud or coercion but continued to live in a married state after learning of the fraud or when the coercion was removed, the marriage may be considered “ratified” by that party’s subsequent conduct and therefore deemed valid.
To file for annulment, only one of the parties must seek the annulment. The decision does not have to be mutual. If the grounds for annulment are that one of the parties is underage, the parent (or, under Georgia law, the “next friend”) of the underage party can also petition for the annulment.
Since an annulment amounts to a declaration that the marriage is void, the process is somewhat different from divorce. However, depending upon the facts of the case, a court may still allocate the division of assets and debts in an annulment case as it would in divorce proceedings. Alimony (spousal support) is not available.
DISCUSS YOUR OPTIONS WITH AN ATLANTA LAWYER WHEN DISSOLVING A MARRIAGE
If you believe that you should pursue an annulment, it is advisable to consult an experienced family law attorney prior to filing your petition. A legal advisor can tell you if annulment is the appropriate remedy for your situation and explain further the legal ramifications of seeking and obtaining it. The divorce attorneys at Rowsey & Stelter can assist Atlanta residents and others with their efforts to satisfy the procedural and legal requirements. For a free consultation, you can reach us at (770) 993-5317 or through our online form. We proudly serve clients throughout Cobb, DeKalb, and Fulton Counties, including in Marietta, Sandy Springs, and Alpharetta.