There are many different circumstances that lead someone to seek out the dissolution of his or her marriage. Whether infidelity, irreconcilable differences, or financial strain, the decision is never an easy one.
Many spouses seek divorce through traditional or collaborative methods. However, sometimes couples seek a divorce because the marriage should have never happened in the first place. In such circumstances, an annulment may be the right option.
Annulment is generally a shorter process, but it also has requirements that may be difficult to meet. If you’re seeking to end a marriage in Texas, the divorce attorneys at Alison Grant, Attorney at Law have created this guide that shows the differences between annulment and divorce to determine which process is right for your situation.
What Is a Divorce?
A divorce is a legal decree that officially ends a marriage between a couple. Divorce proceedings are used to help resolve issues, such as child custody, the division of assets obtained during the marriage, and whether either spouse will have to pay alimony. Once the divorce is finalized, the spouses have no more legal obligation to each other and can enter into a new marriage if they choose.
Types of Divorce Available in Texas
Depending on the circumstances, divorces are placed in the following categories:
- No-Fault Divorce: Couples do not have to prove any transgressions to seek the end of their marriage. Individuals seeking a no-fault divorce have to show that there are irreconcilable differences and loss of affection.
- Uncontested Divorce: Occurs when both partners agree to a set of terms of the divorce. This allows for the couple to bypass hearings, settlement negotiations, and other court procedures.
- Arbitration: A private judge weighs both sides of a couple’s account of their marriage. The judge has the power to rule on the separation of property and finalize the divorce, as they act as a neutral third party.
- Mediation: Mediation involves a neutral third party that listens to the account of the marriage by both parties. The mediator does not have the power to pass final judgement on the couple’s divorce or the distribution of assets, instead, they help the couple communicate to reach an agreed decision. The agreement is then presented to the judge for entry with the court. Mediation helps streamline the divorce process.
- Collaborative Divorce: Both parties seek their own legal counsel, usually a divorce attorney with a focus in collaborative law. The spouses sign an agreement to use the collaborative divorce process to encourage the couple to build a common consensus. If an agreement cannot be reached, then the attorneys are free to withdraw themselves, forcing the couple to start from square one.
- Default Divorce: This divorce occurs when one of the spouses is unresponsive. This usually occurs when authorities are unable to locate or serve papers to the other spouse. The judge then handles the division of assets.
- Contested Divorce: In a contested divorce, both spouses obtain separate attorneys and appear before a judge to decide on the terms of their divorce. This type of divroce often includes hearings, settlement negotiations, and trials. This is often the route of couples that cannot agree on settlement or child support.
Can One Get an Annulment in Texas?
While a divorce is the declaration that a legal marriage is over, an annulment is a statement that the marriage should not have occurred in the first place. In annulments, the marriage is declared not legal so it never happened.
There are two different types of annulment, legal and religious. Here is the difference between the two:
Texas Legal Annulments
Annulments act as a form of relief or an escape plan for individuals who were put into situations that, if they knew, would never have agreed to get married. Civil annulments treat the marriage as if it never happened; however, this means that the individual seeking an annulment needs a good reason to obtain one. For legal annulments, there are conditions that have to be met in order for the court to consider an annulment instead of a divorce. These conditions are as follows:
- Fraud or Misrepresentation: One of the spouses lied about something significant to their marriage (e.g., lying about age, a current marriage, or children from a previous marriage for whom he or she is responsible for child support payments).
- Concealment: One of the spouses is hiding a major fact about his or her life that will affect the life of the other spouse (e.g., convicted felon).
- Misunderstanding: This occurs often when one individual wants to have children or make another significant life decision and the other spouse does not.
- Impotency or Incest: In this case, one spouse purposely hid or never revealed his or her incurable impotency or that the fact that the spouse is too close in relation to marry the other (e.g., children separated by birth who later found each other but never realized they were siblings until after they married).
- Lack of Consent: One of the individuals lacked the mental capacity to consent to the marriage or he or she was forced into it.
It is important to note that in legal annulments, that the marriage has to be voidable. This is completely different from a marriage that was “void” from the onset. For example, marriage of polygamy or a forced child marriage are not legal in Texas, which means that they are considered void. These marriages do not need to be annulled.
Religious annulments go through the church to treat the marriage as if it never existed before God. This type of annulment is typically sought after by the Catholic Church as divorces are frowned upon. In this case, the church decides whether the marriage bond was lacking in some way from the beginning, preventing a bond between the couple for life.
One or both individuals must show that one or both was lacking maturity, honesty, or emotional stability from the beginning of the marriage. If the church grants the annulment, then this frees up both parties to marry again through the church.
It is important to note that even if the church approves the annulment it doesn’t mean that a legal annulment will be granted. Likewise, a legal annulment does not necessarily grant a religious one.
Annulments in Texas
Every state has its own laws that allow for a marriage annulment, but they are slightly different. Different states have different conditions, guidelines, or statutes of limitations for the annulment. Texas is one of the few states that allows a person who requests an annulment to demand a jury trial. For the state of Texas, you must meet one of the following conditions to have your annulment case looked at:
- Underage marriage: If you were over 16 but under 18 when you got married and you did not have parental consent or a court order, the court may grant you an annulment.
- You were under the influence of alcohol or drugs: If you were drunk or under the influence of drugs at the time of the marriage, annulment is possible.
- Impotency: An inability to consummate the marriage may be grounds for annulment if the parties didn’t live together after the impotency was discovered and the impotence is permanent.
- Duress or fraud: If one used duress, fraud, or force to get you to marry him or her, you can likely prove grounds for annulment.
- Mental incapacity: If one of the parties was mentally incapable of understanding what he or she was doing at the time of the marriage, the court may grant an annulment.
- Marriage within 3 days of receiving a license: If there were less than 72 hours between receiving the license and the time of marriage, the court may grant an annulment.
- Concealed divorce: If your spouse was divorced for less than 30 days before your marriage and you were unaware of this divorce, there may be grounds for annulment.
In these last two cases, the divorce must be filed within 30 days of the marriage. In the cases of intoxication, impotency, or fraud, it’s imperative that you don’t live together after realizing that the marriage was a mistake. If you were married under duress or force, you need to leave immediately after being freed in order to prove that you do not want to be married.
What Happens to Children and Property After an Annulment?
In some annulment cases, the property does not need to be divided between spouses. However, courts will determine each case individually. Children born during a marriage that is later annulled must still be cared and provided for before and after the resolution.
Divorce or Annulment, Alison Grant Attorney at Law Is There for You
Whether you are looking for a divorce or annulment to dissolve a marriage that never should have happened, you can rely on the experienced knowledge and counsel of Alison Grant, Attorney at Law. She can help you determine the right course of action for your case and will be with you for every step of the process. Contact our team today for more information on our services or to schedule a consultation.