What is an Annulment?
George Strait wrote the now famous country song: “All My Ex’s Live in Texas”? It seems that George Strait knew something about getting married and divorced in Texas. Indeed, Texas is home to the most amount of people who have been married three or more times in the nation. The Pew Research Center released a report that provided that approximately 428,000 women and 373,000 men have been married and divorced at least two times.
With those sort of figures, you would think that divorce would be an easy process in the great state of Texas, however, anyone who has ever been through a divorce will tell you that it is not an easy process. To begin there are different types of ways that you can end a marriage, and the term divorce is usually a broad term that encompasses any time that a married couple decides to go separate ways.
Do Annulments Apply to and Voidable Marriages?
Not every marriage ends in divorce under the law. Some marriages can be annulled. Texas allows a marriage to be annulled under very specific conditions. When an annulment is granted, the Court is essentially finding that the marriage was not entered into validly. An annulment “voids” a marriage, which would otherwise be a valid marriage if neither party challenged the marriage. In other words, a marriage that is subject to being annulled is a “voidable” marriage, which should not be confused with a truly “void marriage.”
There are several specific grounds for annulment in the Lone Star State. These generally are:
- Marriage of a person who is 16 or 17 years of age – If two individuals who are under the age of 18 want to get married they generally need to do so with parental consent, or with the court’s approval. As opposed to the other grounds to grant an annulment that will be discussed below, this type of annulment may only be filed by a parent, guardian, managing conservator, or by a “next friend for the benefit of the underage party,” and it must be filed before the underage party turns 18 years of age. In such a case, a court may, but is not required, to grant the annulment.
- Under the influence of alcohol or narcotics – There are many movies and celebrity drama stories that have centered on people getting married after a heavy night of drinking. In Texas, this is a ground for an annulment. The Court may grant an annulment to a marriage that was entered into while one or both of the parties were under the influence of alcoholic beverages or narcotics, and as a result of being under the influence, they did not have the capacity to consent to the marriage. However, annulments based on being under the influence of alcohol or narcotics are only granted as long as the person seeking the annulment has not voluntarily cohabited with the other party to the marriage since the effects of the alcoholic beverages or narcotics ended.
- Impotency – In addition to the reasons mentioned above sometimes the Court will grant an annulment if either party is permanently impotent at the time of the marriage. This can include both physical and mental reasons. In addition, the person who is seeking to have the marriage annulled based on impotency has to prove to the court that they did not know that the other person was impotent at the time of the marriage. As with annulments granted because of being under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. A person who is asking the court to grant an annulment based on impotency cannot have voluntarily cohabited with the other party since learning of the impotency.
- Fraud, Duress, or Force – This is the most common reason for seeking an annulment in Texas. Unfortunately, this is a very broad and subjective reason for annulment. Specifically, Texas Family Code Section 6.107 states that a court may grant an annulment if the other party used fraud, duress, or force to induce the petitioner, who is the person seeking the annulment, to enter into the marriage. Additionally, the petitioner has not voluntarily cohabited with the other party since learning of the fraud, duress, or force.
- Mental Incapacity – A court may grant an annulment if one of the people in the marriage did not have the mental capacity to consent to marriage or to understand the nature of the marriage ceremony. This can be because of a mental disease or defect. Like the other reasons for annulment the person seeking the annulment did not voluntarily cohabit with the other party during a period when the person seeking the annulment possessed the mental capacity to recognize the marriage relationship.
- Marriage Lasting Less than 72 hours – The court may grant an annulment of a marriage to a party to the marriage if the marriage ceremony took place less than 72 hours after issuance of the marriage license.
The Texas Family Code also provides that a marriage subject to an annulment (a “voidable” marriage”) cannot be challenged in court after the death of a party (for instance, in a probate proceeding).
What are Void Marriages?
Up until now, this post has been about voidable marriages. However, this is not the only type of marriage defect in Texas. Texas recognizes something known as a “void marriage” which is a marriage that was entered into illegally. There are numerous types of marriages that the Texas legislature has determined are void. Specifically, section 6.201 of the Texas Family Code provides that a marriage is void if one person is related to another as:
- An ancestor or descendant, by blood or adoption;
- A brother or sister, of the whole or half blood or by adoption;
- A parent’s brother or sister, of the whole or half blood or by adoption; or
- A son or daughter of a brother or sister of the whole or half blood or by adoption
In essence, this section of the Texas Family Code provides that it is illegal to marry a parent, grandparent, a sibling or half-sibling, an uncle or aunt, or a first cousin.
There are other types of “void marriages.” One that is surprisingly common is when one person is still currently married to another person that has not been dissolved by legal action or terminated by the death of the other spouse. However, unlike the other types of void marriages, this type of void marriage can be “saved.” The statute pertaining to void marriages makes it clear, that this type of marriage is only void for so long as the first marriage has not been dissolved. Additionally, the other party to the first marriage must still be alive. If a divorce or annulment is granted for the first marriage, or if the other party dies, the second marriage becomes a valid marriage as of the date of the divorce, annulment, or death, as long as the two parties continue to live together as husband and wife represent themselves as being married after the date the first marriage is dissolved.
At the Queenan Law Firm, we tenaciously pursue every case we handle. Regardless of whether you come to us for assistance with a divorce, a custody dispute, a conflict over property distribution, or you simply have questions about what to include in your prenuptial agreement, we will educate you about your responsibilities while advocating for your rights to the fullest extent possible. If contention exists between you and your spouse, we aim to use our litigation skills to resolve the dispute in your best interest and that of your children.
Contact a Texas Divorce Lawyer at Queenan Law
To set up a free legal consultation about your family law matter, call the Queenan Law Firm at (888) 552-6500. With more than 20 years of legal experience representing mothers and fathers throughout the Arlington area, our divorce attorneys are always eager to put our knowledge and skill to work for you.