Annulment and divorce are similar in the sense that they make a determination about marital status. They are effectively distant cousins in the legal family. Nevertheless, there are important differences between them that you need to understand.
Key Distinction Between Annulment and Divorce
Divorce ends an existing, legally valid marriage. An annulment declares that what everyone thought was a marriage never actually was a legally valid marriage at all. In the eyes of the law, an annulled marriage did not exist.
How does a Court decide a Request for Annulment?
Annulment actions are handled by Arizona superior courts. You need to file a Petition for Annulment and your “spouse” must respond to that petition. A judge will review the request. If granted, the annulment will be entered via court order. Both you and your spouse will need to appear before the court, which will hear testimony, consider the written submissions and the law and issue the aforementioned order.
Grounds for Annulment
There are various situations when you can ask a court to annul your marriage. Here are some examples:
- Either you or the other party was already married to someone else.
- You and the other party are related by blood.
- You and/or the other party lacked the mental capacity to enter into a legally valid marriage.
- You and/or the other party were intoxicated at the time of the marriage.
- One or both of the parties lacked the intent to enter into a marriage contract.
- The parties failed to obtain a proper, official marriage license.
Annulment Carries Significant Consequences
If your marriage is annulled and you have children, the paternity of your children could be called into question. This is because an annulled marriage has no validity. Therefore, the children born of the “marriage” are illegitimate. The law views those children as though they were born to single parents. Nevertheless, Arizona law declares that “every child is the legitimate child of its natural parents and is entitled to support and education as if born in lawful wedlock.” This means that all children in the state of Arizona are entitled to the same protections and support, regardless of whether their parents are legally married or never married at all.
Division of Assets from an Annulment
Arizona has a unique set of laws when it comes to an annulment and division of property. The Arizona legislature passed a generous statute that requires courts to divide the property of the spouses when a marriage is annulled. This is quite different from many other states where courts are actually prohibited from awarding alimony or dividing “marital” assets because the law never recognized the marriage in the first place.
Tempe Divorce Lawyer
As you can see, getting an annulment can become quite complex since you are dealing the potential division of assets and liabilities. This is why you should hire an attorney who understands the nuances of the annulment statutes in Arizona. The Law Office of Ronald L. Kossack is here to help. We provide a free initial consultation to discuss your family law matter and how we can be of assistance. To speak with a Tempe divorce lawyer about your legal matter contact us online or by calling 480-345-2652.