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An annulment has the same effect as a divorce, ending a marriage and dividing assets, except it negates the initial marriage and in the eyes of the law the marriage never existed.
In an annulment, you are petitioning to have your marriage erased from your legal record as if it never happened. This means that on legal forms, you are free to check the box labeled “Single” and not “Divorced” if you received an annulment. Courts only have the power to annul a legal marriage; they do not take part in granting a religious annulment, which must be done through proper religious facets.
The provisions for the annulment of marriage in Arizona are found in Title 25, Chapter 3, Article 1 of the Arizona code. There are specific regulations and steps you must follow to properly petition for an annulment, so it is recommended to consult with an experienced Arizona family law attorney about your annulment.
Those seeking an annulment of their marriage must meet certain criteria to be eligible to petition for an annulment. Many people believe an annulment can only happen shortly after the marriage took place, this is not the case. In certain circumstances an annulment can be grated years after the marriage began.
Before you begin the annulment process, make sure you understand the process and qualifications in order to ensure a smooth petitioning process.
Qualifications of Petition for an Annulment in Arizona
Receiving an annulment is not a simple process. You are charged with the burden of proof in your own annulment case. This means that you are responsible for providing evidence proving that your marriage is eligible for annulment. In Arizona, you must prove that your marriage falls under one of the following categories:
- No Consummation of the Marriage
- Underage party
- Fraud or Misrepresentation
- Unsound mind
If your marriage was initiated under any of the above mentioned circumstances, then you may be eligible to receive an annulment. An annulment can be preferable for some couples who feel their marriage was never a real marriage and do not think they want a divorce.
No Consummation of the Marriage
In the U.S., a marriage must be consummated to be viewed as legal and binding. If a marriage is not consummated, the parties have the option to annul the marriage.
Marriages are sometimes not consummated because one party refuses, this is grounds for an annulment. Other variables can lead to not consummating a marriage, such as a partner finds out their new spouse is unable to consummate and did not warn their partner before the marriage that they were unable to do so; this is grounds for an annulment.
It is a federal crime to marry an immediate relative in the United States. If a couple is wed either with or without knowing they are related, the marriage is eligible for an annulment. The government will not recognize a marriage in incest.
Bigamy is also a federal crime and is grounds for an annulment. If one of the spouses is still legally married to another person then any subsequent marriages are subject to annulment. Plural marriages are illegal, and any person involved in a bigamist marriage has the legal right to an annulment.
To be legally married in Arizona, both parties must be adults or receive the proper permissions before the wedding takes place. If an individual who is not 18 years old gets married without the permission of their parents, guardian, etc., then the marriage can be annulled.
Fraud or Misrepresentation
If one of the spouses lied about a crucial determining factor in choosing to be married, the other spouse has the right to an annulment of the marriage. This does not mean that you can get an annulment for every little lie someone has told you, it must have been a lie about something that made you decide to marry them. For example, if your spouse said they are able to have children and when you get married you find out they are infertile and knew about it before the marriage, then you can petition for an annulment.
When a spouse misrepresents themselves in a significant way that swayed your decision to marry them, then you have the ability to apply for an annulment. Some common misrepresentations include: religion, sexual orientation, career, etc. While a misrepresentation can be difficult to prove, if you are able to provide enough evidence, you can receive an annulment for a misrepresentation that led to the marriage.
Parties must both be of sound mind at the time of the wedding ceremony for the wedding to be considered valid. If either party lacks the mental or physical capacity to consent to the marriage, then it can be annulled. This also applies if one spouse was intoxicated or under the influence at the time of the marriage, as it would alter their ability to make sound decisions.
No one can force an individual into a marriage. Whether it is force from the spouse, family, business, etc., a forced marriage can be annulled.
Petitioning for an Annulment
In Arizona, annulments are heard at the Arizona superior courts. This means you file your petition for annulment with your local courthouse. Once the petition is filed, the other party will be notified and have the ability to respond. The court will call in both parties for testimony and evidence and then make their decision regarding the annulment.
Courts do not hold the burden of proof to prove if your claims are accurate or not. You must provide enough evidence and testimony to prove the annulment is warranted.
Settling Assets in an Annulment
In an annulment, assets will be treated similarly to the proceedings in a divorce. Assets brought into the marriage are returned to the respective parties and communal assets since the marriage occurred are generally split 50-50 as Arizona is a community property state. You will have the ability to bring the issue of assets to the court if you believe 50-50 is an unfair distribution.
How Children are Affected in an Annulment
A major fear of individuals seeking an annulment when children are involved, is that there will be child custody and support issues. Luckily, according to Arizona laws, children will not be considered illegitimate if your marriage is annulled. Paternity is presumed, unless the father fights that then it will need to be proved. From this point it is treated similar to a divorce.
A father will be required by law to pay child support and has the right to parenting time. A court will work with the parties to determine custody. However, because the marriage is annulled, the mother is not eligible for spousal maintenance support.
Petitioning for an annulment can be a burdensome process, but with the assistance of a skilled Arizona divorce attorney, you can rest assured that your case will be properly handled.
Call the Family Law Team at (480) 467-4348 to discuss your case today.
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