Are Frequent Incarcerations a Basis for Annulment?

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Like a divorce, an annulment dissolves a marriage. However, there are many differences between divorce and annulment, including the grounds for each. Additionally, the legal effect is different.

Basis for Annulment

An annulment recognizes when a marriage has been entered into by mistake. It provides a remedy to remove the marriage when it occurred for a limited set of circumstances.

Legal Effect of Annulment

If a couple’s marriage is annulled, it is treated as though the marriage never existed. An annulment is a court order that dissolves a marriage. State laws govern property division rules when a marriage is annulled and vary by jurisdiction. If children were born of the marriage, the children are not considered illegitimate.

Legal Effect of Divorce

When a couple gets divorced, they are still recognized as having a valid marriage. State law governs such issues as child custody, child support, spousal support and property division. Regarding property division, there are usually one of two ways that property is divided. A few states are considered community property states. In these states, property and income acquired during the marriage is considered to be the equal property of both spouses regardless of who earned it or how it is titled. Upon divorce, this property is usually divided equally between the spouses.

The other system of dividing property is equitable distribution. In these states, the court is tasked with dividing the property fairly between the spouses. This may not result in an equal distribution. The court can consider many factors to determine what is fair under the circumstances.

Why Some People May Want an Annulment

Some people may want an annulment over a divorce for various reasons. The property division rules may be preferable for them if an annulment is granted. They may want it legally acknowledged that the marriage was a mistake for some reason. They may want to avoid the negative social stigma that sometimes follows people with divorce. They may be part of a religion that does not recognize divorce.

Grounds for Annulment

The grounds for annulment are based on state law. However, some common grounds for annulment include the following:

Fraud or Misrepresentation

Fraud or misrepresentation occurs when one of the spouses lied or misrepresented something fundamental about the marriage, such as the ability to perform sexually, the ability to have children, the reason for marriage, being old enough to consent to marriage or not being married to someone else. If a person gets married to another person simply for the purpose of acquiring citizenship, this is also a ground based on fraud.


If one of the spouses hid something very important, annulment may be possible. Possible concealed facts that may justify an annulment include a substance abuse problem, a felony conviction, children born of a previous relationship, involvement in a gang, ongoing criminal activity, impotency, a sexually transmitted disease or an undisclosed health matter.


If either spouse is unable to have sexual intercourse or consummate the marriage, this is usually grounds for divorce. Likewise, if a spouse is important and the other spouse was not aware of this fact before the marriage, this may be grounds for impotency.

Lack of Consent

Spouses must have the mental capacity to consent and enter into the marriage. If one of the spouses was unable to legally consent to the marriage, the marriage can usually be annulled. Lack of consent may be present when one of the spouses was a minor, had diminished capacity due to age or mental illness, was insane or intoxicated at the time of entering into the marriage.


A significant misunderstanding can also be grounds for annulment. This misunderstanding may be about the inability or desire to have children. For a misunderstanding to justify an annulment, it must usually be substantial to the marriage.

Length of Marriage

Many people mistakenly believe that a marriage can be annulled if it is less than a month or another short period of time. However, most states do not provide this as independent grounds for an annulment.

Problem Marriages

If a couple gets married and the marriage is plagued with problems, this also is not usually grounds for annulment. For example, if a couple gets married and one spouse is in and out of prison, this alone may not be sufficient grounds for annulment without one of the other grounds described above.

Religious Annulments

Churches and other religious institutions may have different grounds for annulment. A religious annulment allows a person to get remarried in the same church, even if the couple is legally divorced.


Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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