Wichita divorce attorney J. Joseph Weber periodically receives questions from prospective clients about the process of annulment. Many people who feel like they have been “wronged” by their spouse express an interest in annulment as an alternative to divorce. Although we often hear from people who want an annulment based on the infidelity of their spouse, an annulment may only be granted based on a small number of specific grounds, which do not include adultery. The annulment process can be very similar to a marital dissolution in that it may address alimony, child support, parenting plans, division of property/debts and ancillary issues.
The fundamental distinction between annulment and divorce is that a divorce “dissolves” marital status while annulment essentially constitutes an acknowledgement that a marriage was invalid from the start. If an annulment is granted, it will be as if the marriage never occurred. Although a marital dissolution and an annulment can resolve almost identical issues, some people prefer annulment because of religious beliefs or social stigma that they associate with divorce. The specific reasons that can serve as grounds to annul a marriage in Kansas include:
- Under the Age of Majority: One party is under 18 unless the underage spouse has parental consent.
- Incest: A marriage between spouses who are related by the degree of first cousins or closer can be annulled.
- Coercion: Force used by one party to compel marriage can be used to void the marriage.
- Mistake: The marriage would not have occurred had the parties been aware of certain facts.
- Sham Marriage: The parties did not participate in a marriage ceremony with the actual intent to marry, such as a marriage as a prank.
- Fraud: Either spouse misrepresented or failed to disclose information fundamental to the marriage.
- Bigamy: A spouse has not completed a divorce from a prior marriage.
- Impotence: Either spouse is unaware of the incurable impotence of the other party.
- Insanity: One of the parties was incapable of understanding he or she was getting married.
Even if one of these grounds appears to be present, the rules and standards for granting an annulment based on these grounds can be complicated. A person can legally marry if he or she is sixteen or seventeen with parental consent or judicial approval, for example, but a 15 year-year-old cannot legally marry without judicial approval. Similarly, insanity may only serve as a basis for an annulment if a spouse was unable to understand he or she was getting married at the time of the marriage. The subsequent insanity of a spouse after marriage does not provide a basis for annulment. There also is a high bar for the use of fraud as a grounds for annulment. While a wife’s failure to disclose impregnation by another man prior to the marriage has been ruled to constitute a legitimate basis for annulment in Kansas, a spouse’s dishonesty about prior sexual history prior to marriage has been rejected as a legitimate basis for granting an annulment.
If you have questions about annulment or other family law issues, we welcome the opportunity to talk to you and answer your questions. We invite you to call the Weber Law Office at (316) 265-7802 or to submit an inquiry form through this website to schedule your initial consultation.