A marriage is a legal contract. As such, it must comply with state and federal law in order to be legally binding. Noncompliance with these laws can render your marriage invalid, putting you in a precarious legal position.
If your marriage is legally invalid, you are not actually married. But this does not mean you can simply walk away from your spouse, especially if you have marital assets or children born during the marriage. You could have to end the marriage through an annulment, which is the legal process of wiping the marriage from legal record. Unlike a divorce, which is the legal dismantling of a valid marriage, an annulment acknowledges that a marriage was never valid. In many states, there are time limits for annulments. These often vary according to the reason why a marriage could be invalid. Once these time limits are passed, a marriage can become legally valid.
Reasons a Marriage Could be Invalid
There are many reasons why a marriage could be determined to be invalid. These include:
Bigamy: If one partner is already married, he or she cannot enter a valid marriage without first finalizing a divorce from the first spouse;
Incest: Marriage between close relatives is illegal throughout the United States, but states maintain specific laws regarding which relatives can and cannot marry each other;
One or both partners were under the age of consent and did not have parental or court approval to marry;
One or both partners were coerced or forced into the marriage through threat of harm;
One or both partners could not consent to the marriage due to mental incapacitation or the influence of drugs or alcohol;
Impotence, a physical impairment rendering one or both spouses unable to consummate their marriage; and
Fraud: If the marriage was entered based on false information, such as to circumvent immigration laws or a false identity, the marriage can be voided.
Annulment vs. Divorce
Having your invalid marriage annulled guarantees that you are no longer legally bound to your spouse in any way.
Typically, each partner’s property remains with him or her following an annulment. If
the couple has marital property, like a home or joint savings account, the court may step in to aid in the division of these assets.
If the couple has children, the court will develop a child support order to ensure that their needs are met after the parents separate. The court may also develop a custody schedule for the children. In rare cases, the court may also grant temporary alimony as part of an annulment if one spouse was financially dependent on the other.
Work with an Experienced La Crosse Divorce Lawyer
If your marriage is deemed to be invalid, you can potentially end it through an annulment rather than a divorce. Speak with an experienced divorce lawyer to determine if your marriage is eligible for annulment based on the reason for its invalidity and the time limit for an annulment set by your state. To learn more, contact our team at Moen Sheehan Meyer, Ltd. today to set up your initial consultation in our office.