A divorce is the official termination of a legal marriage; a marriage annulment says there was no marriage.
Divorces are a lot more common, but they are also much more complicated than what marriage annulments are. Most couples go for divorces because they don’t have the option of getting their marriage annulled.
But what is a marriage annulment?
An annulment of marriage claims that the marriage was never valid. After a person goes through an annulment, their status changes to “single,” as opposed to “divorced.”
Marriage annulments in Arizona are rare; however, couples do have the option of getting a marriage annulled if they meet certain requirements.
So why would a couple opt for a marriage annulment over a divorce? And how long after marriage can you get an annulment?
Let’s take a look:
Marriage annulments are a source of relief for individuals who shouldn’t have been married in the first place.
For example, one of the reasons for annulment of marriage is if a couple gets married and the wife later discovers that her husband already had a family she wasn’t aware of, she has the right to ask for an annulment.
For a couple to be eligible for a marriage annulment, they must meet one of the following:
If either of the spouses lied to the other about something important like their age, being already married, financial situation, etc., they qualify for a marriage annulment.
Hiding a huge fact about one’s life, like a serious criminal record, can cause the spouse to seek an annulment.
Couples who find out after getting married that they don’t agree about having children can opt for an annulment.
The nightmare of discovering a spouse is actually a close family relative can force an individual to annul a marriage.
If one spouse finds out that the other is impotent after marriage, they have the right to get an annulment in that case as well.
In the past, the minimum age of marriage in Arizona was a source of controversy.
For the longest time, there wasn’t a clear minimum age. Today, the legal age is 18; however, a person can get married with the consent of their parents after the age of 16.
If an individual didn’t have the mental capacity to consent to marriage, they could get an annulment.
Typically these things are discovered in the earlier stages of a marriage. Rarely do couples find out major facts about their partners after spending years together.
If a spouse learns problematic things about their partner years into their marriage, they will have to check their state’s laws and work with a family lawyer to understand their options.
Getting a religious annulment is different from getting one through the court.
Couples that choose to get marriage annulment through the Catholic Church will have to sit with a diocesan tribunal that decides whether or not they can get an annulment. Annulments by the tribunal will be given based on honesty, maturity, and emotional stability.
If the marriage annulment is granted, then both parties are permitted to remarry in the church.
How to get a marriage annulled in Arizona
In Arizona, the procedure to get an annulment isn’t too different from getting a divorce.
The injured party can file a petition and state the grounds for an annulment if they have been residing in the state for at least 90 days.
Based on the evidence they provide, the court will decide whether or not the annulment should be granted.
The court will assess the validity of the claims the injured party makes before deciding whether the marriage is void or null. If the marriage is annulled, the involved individuals are allowed to marry others.
Bear in mind that after the couple has been granted an annulment, they no longer have rights over their previous partner’s property. They forfeit the rights over marital assets, including the right to inherit property from their former partner and spousal maintenance (alimony).
Misconceptions about marriage annulment in Arizona
Because annulments aren’t very common, people still have many misconceptions about the procedure, including the following:
1. Annulment isn’t a quick divorce
The annulment process is quicker than a divorce, but it’s not an expedited divorce. That being said, an annulment does share similarities with divorce.
A court will award child custody to either one or both parents, and the parent will be required to pay child support.
The biggest difference between an annulment and divorce is that in the former, the court treats the marriage like it never happened; in a divorce, the court acknowledges the marriage.
If the marriage wasn’t legal in the first place, why does anyone need to file a petition?
It’s important to go through the annulment process for legal purposes. It needs to go on record that the marriage has been annulled to avoid legal complications later on.
By officially annulling the marriage, the court can make decisions on issues like child support, parenting time, the division of debt and property, etc.
The court has the right to deny annulment if it believes a legal marriage exists. In such cases, the spouses will have to get in touch with a family law attorney or a divorce lawyer.
2. It’s easier to annul a short marriage
Contrary to what many believe, the duration of a marriage doesn’t have an impact on annulment proceedings.
A valid marriage of just 2 weeks can be denied annulment, while a forced marriage that lasted 5 years can be annulled, based solely on the fact that it wasn’t valid.
The only distinguishing factor that determines whether a couple should get a divorce or an annulment is the validity of the marriage.
A valid short marriage will still have to go through a divorce.
3. Common-law marriages
Common-law marriages aren’t permitted in Arizona; there are only a few states in the country that allow common-law marriages.
A couple that is romantically involved may be living together, but they won’t legally be considered married unless they make it official.
A couple got into a common-law marriage in a state like Texas, where such marriages are valid will have to get a divorce in Arizona.
If you suspect that you may be in an invalid marriage and are seeking separation from your spouse, contact an experienced family law attorney in Arizona that understands annulment and divorce proceedings.