An annulment is a court order saying that a marriage never legally existed. This is to be distinguished from a divorce, which recognizes that marriage existed and legally ends the union. In Texas, as in many other states, there are two kinds of marriages eligible for annulment: void and voidable. Void marriages are marriages that could never be legal. Voidable marriages are those that can become legal if the innocent party chooses to stay in the marriage. A legal annulment should not be confused with a religious annulment. A person may qualify for an annulment by their religious authority even if they do not qualify for a legal annulment.
Texas recognizes two reasons for void marriages: prior marriage and consanguinity. If one spouse was already married to someone else at the time the new marriage took place, that person did not have the legal power to enter into another marriage. For that reason the second marriage is void. However, Texas Family Code - Section 1.102 presumes that the most recent marriage is valid until a party produces proof of the first marriage. Also, if the first marriage is legally dissolved and the parties to the second marriage continue to live together as married spouses, the second marriage will become valid.
Consanguinity means that the parties are too closely related to marry under Texas law. Texas law prohibits marriages between close blood relations, by whole or half blood or adoption. So children and parents, other descendants, sibling, aunts and nephews; and uncles and nieces cannot legally marry. If they do the marriage is void.
Texas recognizes 8 grounds for voidable marriage. (1) If one of the spouses is under 14 at the time of the marriage the parent/guardian of that child may file for an annulment. (2) If one of the spouses is between 14 and 18 at the time of the marriage and did not have parental or court permission to marry, an adult can file for an annulment on the minor's behalf. (3) If either or both parties to a marriage got married while they were too intoxicated on alcohol or drugs to know what they were doing they can annul the marriage. (4) If either party to the marriage is permanently impotent, meaning that the person is physically/mentally unable to have sexual relations, and the other spouse did not know of this before the marriage, the marriage can be annulled. (5) Anyone who is forced into a marriage or induced to marry by fraud, such as by not being told the spouse has had a sex change operation or has an incurable STD, can have the marriage annulled. (6) A marriage can be annulled if one of the spouses lacked the mental capacity to understand the nature of the marriage. (7) Texas law requires a person to wait 30 days after a prior divorce before remarrying. If a party to a marriage does not wait and the other party does not know this (concealed divorce), the other party can annul the marriage. (8) If one party to the marriages marries within 72 hours after the issuance of a marriage license, contrary to Texas law, and the other spouse does not know, the marriage can be annulled.
Validating Voidable Marriages
All voidable marriages can be validated by the parties to the marriage. If the parties to the marriage continue to live together as husband and wife after the legal barrier to the marriage or a legal deadline has passed, the marriage will become valid and can only be ended by a divorce. (1) An action to annul the marriage of a child under 14 must be filed within 90 days of when the parent/guardian finds out about the marriage or within 90 days of the child turning 14, whichever is later. (2) An action to annul the marriage of a child between 14 and 18 can be annulled anytime before his or her 18th birthday. If the spouse stays in the marriage after turning 18, the marriage is valid. (3) Intoxicated spouses must leave as soon as they sober up. If they continue with the marriage, even for a few hours, it becomes valid. (4) If the other spouse continues to live with the first spouse after learning the first spouse is permanently unable to have sexual relations, the marriage becomes valid. (5) The innocent spouse can annul a marriage entered into by force or fraud if he or she leaves as soon it is possible to get away or as soon as he or she knows about the fraud. Voluntarily staying makes the marriage valid. (6) The other partner cannot annul a marriage on the grounds of a spouse's mental incapacity if he or she stayed with the partner after learning of this incapacity. (7) A concealed marriage must be annulled before the first anniversary of the marriage. (8) The spouse who did not know about an invalid marriage license has 30 days to annul the marriage.