Qualifying for Annulment
Unlike divorce, which terminates a valid marriage, annulment is a pronouncement that no valid marriage in fact ever took place. The qualifications for annulment vary by state, but there are several common grounds that are generally accepted. Any marriage that was entered into by one party because of threat, force, fraud, intoxication or concealment can usually be annulled. If one of the parties was underage at the time of marriage, or if the couple is closely related and should not have been permitted to legally marry, these are also qualifications.
In most states, the same petition form that is used to initiate a divorce is also used for an annulment. One simply checks the box for nullity rather than dissolution. This form is obtainable in the Family Law Division of your local county court. The petition must be filed in the county of your residency (or of your spouse's), even if it's not the state in which you were married. As with divorce, there are filing fees to pay when submitting the petition for nullity of marriage, and the petition must be duly served on the other spouse. If the other spouse contests the annulment, a hearing will be scheduled and the parties can present evidence whether the state's qualifications for nullification have been met. If so, the judge issues the order announcing the marriage null.
Because the Catholic Church has strict rules about marriage that do not allow for remarriage, Catholics must submit themselves to an annulment process if they wish to have a second marriage recognized by the Church. Annulment is granted if the Church finds the marriage was entered into because of a lack of discretion, or with no legitimate intention to have children, remain faithful, and stay together until death. The parties must submit documents proving their baptism, civil marriage and divorce, and a church marriage certificate. The case is submitted to a tribunal by the local deacon or priest, and the witnesses are allowed to testify. If a marriage once recognized by the Church is annulled, the parties to that marriage can still remarry in the Church.