What Qualifies for an Annulment in Missouri?
Most people are familiar with divorce. However, an annulment is another way a marriage can legally be ended in Missouri. Unlike when a marriage is dissolved through the divorce process, an annulment makes it as if the marriage never existed. However, the circumstances under which an annulment in Missouri can be granted are very limited and it’s crucial to understand whether your situation qualifies.
What is an Annulment?
An annulment is the civil process by which a marriage is declared null and void from the outset. By the court’s determination that a marriage is invalid, an annulment effectively erases it from all records. While a divorce terminates a valid marriage from the date of dissolution, an annulment makes it so that it was not valid from the date it was entered into.
It’s important to be aware that a civil annulment is not the same as a religious annulment. A civil annulment is a legal proceeding, while a religious annulment declares a marriage did not exist under the laws of that religious institution. In other words, a religious annulment gives a person the right to remarry within that religion. Notably, even if a religious annulment is granted, a civil annulment or divorce would still need to be obtained in order for the marriage to be legally ended.
What are the Grounds for an Annulment in Missouri?
Missouri law recognizes that there are two types of marriages that can qualify for an annulment: those that are void and those that are voidable. A void marriage is one that was never legal, while a voidable marriage is presumed to be valid until a court determines it should be set aside. However, there is a strong presumption in favor of marriage in Missouri courts — a party must present strong evidence to support a claim for annulment.
Both parties must mutually assent to the marriage, otherwise it is not valid. In addition, a spouse may seek an annulment in Missouri for any of the following reasons which would make a marriage void or voidable:
- Common law marriage — Common law marriages are not recognized in Missouri and are considered void.
- Bigamy — Bigamy occurs when a spouse was legally married to another person at the time of the subsequent marriage. These types of marriages are void.
- Underage — If either spouse is under the age of 18 at the time of the marriage and does not have the written consent of a parent or court permission, the marriage is invalid.
- Lack of capacity — If a spouse lacked the mental capacity to enter into the marriage, it will be rendered void.
- Kinship — Marriages between close relatives are presumptively void under Missouri law.
- Misrepresentation or fraud — In very limited circumstances, a marriage procured by a material misrepresentation or certain types of fraud can be annulled. For instance, if a spouse lied about their ability to have children, grounds for annulment in Missouri may exist. The standard for this type of annulment is extremely high however.
- Duress — If a marriage was secured by duress, threats, or violence, it can be ended with an annulment.
- Impotency — In very limited circumstances impotency is grounds for annulling a marriage if the condition is incurable, permanent, and was not known at the time the marriage was entered into.
Contrary to what some might believe, an annulment cannot erase a marriage by filing for one within a specific time frame. For instance, a spouse cannot seek an annulment in Missouri within 24 hours of the marriage — they would still need to demonstrate that one of the above grounds exists to terminate the union.
What are the Effects of an Annulment?
When a marriage is annulled, it is as if it had never been entered into in the first place. This means that an annulment can have a significant impact on the parties and their children. For instance, alimony is not available in annulment cases since the result of obtaining one is that the marriage never existed. A court also does not have the authority to divide property and debt in an annulment, as it would in a divorce.
Children of annulled marriages are considered legitimate if they were born while the parties were married or within 300 days after the annulment was granted. As with divorce, child custody and support determinations may also need to be made. Even though a marriage might not have been valid at the time of conception does not mean that a child is illegitimate — unless a judge determines otherwise.
A spouse who wishes to end their marriage should carefully consider the effect an annulment may have on themselves and their family. Although an annulment in Missouri can sometimes be less costly and faster if there are qualifying grounds to obtain one, it can be more advantageous in some cases to obtain a divorce. Critically, a divorce can offer certain legal protections that an annulment cannot when it comes to property division, distribution of marital assets, and spousal maintenance.
Contact a Knowledgeable Kansas City Annulment Attorney
If you are seeking an annulment, it’s essential to have a skillful attorney by your side who can advise you regarding your rights and options. Divorce, annulment, and family law attorney Mark A. Wortman provides legal services to clients in the greater Kansas City, Missouri area who are considering annulment or divorce and works diligently to ensure successful outcomes in their cases. To schedule a confidential consultation to learn how he can assist you, please contact him today online or by calling (816) 523-6100.