Is an Annulment Right for You? Talk to a Montgomery County, PA Family Law Lawyer
An annulment is similar to a divorce in that it terminates a marriage; however, an annulment is a court procedure that dissolves a marriage by treating it as if it never occurred. The reasons one may want to seek an annulment to end their marriage may vary; some may prefer an annulment because it may be easier to remarry in a church, and others feel getting a divorce may carry a stigma with it and wish to discuss the matter with a legal professional. A majority of annulments take place after a very short marriage that may have lasted months or even weeks. In this instance, there are typically no assets or debts to divide, so it can be less complicated.
For the two types of annulments, civil (granted by the government or state) and religious (granted by the church), these are the grounds for which a person can file for an annulment.
Any annulment that requires the involvement of the state court is considered a civil annulment. This requires at least one member of the marriage to file the necessary document with the court and testify at a court hearing to defend the terms of an annulment.
Within the Roman Catholic Church, a couple may obtain a religious annulment after obtaining a civil divorce so that one or both individuals can remarry and have the second union recognized by the church. The grounds for a religious annulment in the Catholic Church differ from the grounds for a civil annulment.
The court can grant a civil annulment based on a variety of factors, which may depend on whether the marriage is void or voidable. Void marriages are marriages that were never legally recognized by Pennsylvania courts as outlined by Title 23 § 3305, while voidable marriages are marriages that can be considered void under certain circumstances. Some of these circumstances may overlap.
Void marriages are automatically considered invalid if:
- At the time of marriage either party had an existing spouse
- The parties to such marriage have determined that they are somehow related within the degrees of consanguinity, such as by being first cousins or siblings
- Either party was incapable of knowledgeable consent by reason of insanity, mental disorder, or other incapacities
- Either party was under the age of 18 years of age in a common law marriage, however, these types of marriages have been outlawed since 2005 in Pennsylvania
Because void marriages are considered illegal in Pennsylvania, they do not require the involvement of a court to be annulled, whereas voidable marriages will involve a court hearing. Voidable marriages can be annulled if:
- Either party was under 16 years of age, or was 16 or 17 years of age and lacked the consent of parent or guardian and has not subsequently ratified the marriage upon reaching 18 years of age
- Either party was under the influence of alcohol or drugs and the annulment process has started within 60 days
- A party was impotent, and the other party was not aware
- One party was pressured into the marriage due to fraud, duress, coercion, or force attributable and more
Either party is able to bring an action for annulment. Here are the general steps one must take in order to file:
- Determine your reason for annulment: There are specific grounds on which a person can petition for annulment, and understanding the reasons will help you know if this is the avenue you should pursue.
- Gather proof of the reason for the annulment: Supporting proof will greatly help your case when filing for an annulment, so gather evidence like e-mails, phone records, and other supporting documents to prove your reasons for filing.
- Seek legal assistance: Select a qualified Montgomery County family law attorney and schedule a consultation to discuss your case and the fees and charges associated with obtaining an annulment. Provide your attorney with the supporting documents you gathered, as well as anything else needed for successful filing.
Depending on the circumstances of a voidable marriage, an annulment may be subject to specific deadlines. Broadly speaking, one or both spouses must have lived in Pennsylvania for at least 6 months before they can seek an annulment. However, this may be bypassed if one or both members of the marriage are under 18 years of age and the parents’ consent was not provided. In this case, a parent may file for an annulment. Alternatively, one of the spouses may file for an annulment before they turn 18. For individuals who were intoxicated at the time of the marriage, the time limit is 60 days from the date of the marriage. After that point, the marriage is no longer considered voidable.
Determining when and how to file for an annulment can be a confusing process and will need the help of a knowledgeable Pennsylvania annulment attorney.
When a child is born out of wedlock, the determination of paternity is handled through civil court process, thus the burden of proof required is a preponderance of the evidence. If there is clear evidence of paternity based on genetic tests, the court can issue a temporary order of support in the meanwhile until the paternity case in finalized. If the defendant is served with notice of an order to submit to a genetic test and fails to comply, a default judgment can be established. Establishing paternity is critical to insure that the child has the support of both parents.
The Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C. has years of experience helping couples in Montgomery, Delaware, and Chester Counties arrive at satisfactory resolutions agreeable to all parties. Call (610) 645-0100 for a complimentary consultation.