Are you eligible for an annulment rather than a divorce? As with many states, divorce in Georgia has steadily increased. From 1970 to 2000, divorce rates more than doubled, from 3.7% to 7.8% per 1,000 couples. For many, ending the relationship is an unfortunate reality. If you’re considering ending your marriage,there are the major concerns about children, child custody and your financial future. While a divorce is the normal way of ending a marriage, what you may not know is that in Georgia divorce is not your only recourse. There are circumstances that may allow you to file for an annulment instead of a divorce. A consultation with a Georgia divorce lawyer will help you figure out if you have grounds for ending the marriage and the best options in your situation.
How is an Annulment Different from a Divorce?
An annulment is a way of declaring a marriage null and void. It’s a way of saying the marriage never happened, since it was invalid at its inception. After an annulment in Georgia, both spouses can remarry. With a divorce, there is a record of the marriage and you may be entitled to various benefits form the marriage that are not available if the marriage is annulled. The effect of an annulment is to "return the parties thereto to their original status before marriage." OCGA § 19-4-5. "[T]he annulment is not merely a dissolution of the marriage, but a judicial declaration that no marriage ever existed, and in the absence of a statutory declaration otherwise, its effect is usually said to make the annulled marriage void ab initio." 4 AmJur2d Annulment of Marriage, § 93, p. 506
What are the Grounds for Annulment?
Georgia Law provides for several specific circumstances under which the family law court (superior court in Georgia) will grant an annulment. O.C.G.A. §19-3-2, 19-3-3. Most marriages will not meet these specialized criteria, but if you believe your marriage may qualify under one of the following grounds, you should consult a Georgia divorce lawyer about this option.
If either you or your spouse were younger than the age allowed for marriage in Georgia and you did not obtain the required parental permissions.
A marriage that has occurred under fraudulent terms can be annulled in Georgia. An example of fraud would be if a woman were pregnant with another man’s child at the time of the marriage, but told her future husband that the child was his.
It is not legal to be married to more than one person at time, so if you or your spouse were legally married to someone else when you married each other, the marriage is void.
If you or your spouse were suffering from any type of legally recognized form of mental incapacitation at the time of the union the marriage contract would be void for lack of consent.
Failure to Consummate Marriage:
If you or your spouse is unable to consummate the marriage, you may qualify for an annulment. However, if you have actually lived together then the court may consider that you have ratified the marriage. See the case law below.
If the marriage was entered into under the threat of force, either spouse could apply for an annulment in Georgia.
You will need to be able to prove these claims in court. Proof will need to be more than just the word of even both spouses. The family law court will require independent proof before granting an annulment. In most cases it is actually easier to proceed with a no fault divorce. A Georgia family law attorney can explain your options and assist you in deciding between your legal options for ending the marriage.
Annulments of marriages declared void by law may be granted by the superior court. However, annulments may not be granted in cases where children are born or are going to be born as a result of the marriage. See O.C.G.A. §19-4-1.
Annulments are rare. If you ask to have your marriage annulled, you will have to go to hearing with a judge.
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