All courts need a reason to make rulings, so all lawsuits require grounds – something that has occurred that's contrary to the law. In Texas, you must have grounds for annulment just as you would for a divorce, but there's one major difference: you can get a no-fault divorce because your marriage isn't savable, but you can't get a no-fault annulment. If an annulment rather than a divorce is important to you, such as because of your religious beliefs, you'll have to do it the hard way by proving to the court that you have acceptable grounds under Texas law.
Annulment Vs. Divorce
With an annulment, the court effectively rules that you never got married in the first place. Your marriage never existed, either because it was against the law to start with, or because something about your union might have stopped you from marrying had you known about it. A divorce acknowledges that you were married, but it dissolves or ends your marriage.
"Void" is the term given to marriages that were never legal in the first place. In Texas, some marriages can begin as void, but if you take certain actions – or fail to – they become legal and you must therefore divorce instead. For example, minors can't marry without parental consent or court permission. If they do anyway, it's not a legal marriage, so a parent or guardian can have the marriage annulled – but only up until the minor's 18th birthday. Likewise, Texas law doesn't allow you to remarry after divorce for 30 days. If your spouse divorced, didn't wait this required period, and concealed this fact from you, your new marriage can be annulled – but only up until your one-year anniversary. The same applies to getting married within 72 hours of taking out the license, but in this case, you only have 30 days to file for annulment. You can't marry if you're related, or if your previous marriage hasn't yet ended by death or divorce.
A voidable marriage isn't against the law, but some circumstance existed at the time you got married that, had you known about it, would have stopped you from going ahead with the wedding. For example, you might have been so intoxicated at the time you said "I do" that you didn't realize what you were doing. You might have married only to find out later that night that your spouse is impotent and can't consummate the marriage, or you might find out at some point after the wedding that he tricked or deceived you into getting married. If either of you lacked the mental capacity to enter into the marriage, it's voidable. You can usually only annul a voidable marriage if you stopped living with your spouse immediately upon learning of the grounds.
Effect on Property
If you don't have a valid reason for an annulment in Texas, this doesn't mean you must stay married. It only means you must get a divorce instead. This won't affect property division, assuming you were married long enough to acquire any. The same laws apply to property in a divorce as in an annulment. Texas is a community property state, although courts have a bit more flexibility here than in other community property states. They begin with the presumption that marital property should be divided 50-50, but the statutes permit judges to stray from this equation under certain circumstances to achieve a division that might be more fair.
- Texas Constitution and Statutes: Family Code, Title 1, Subtitle C, Chapter 6, Subtitle A
- Legal Information Institute: Voidable Marriage
- Legal Information Institute: Void Marriage
- Denton Texas Divorce: Texas Requirements for an Annulment
- John K. Grubb & Associates: Division of Community Property in Texas
- Robert Reid McInvale: The Difference Between Divorce, Annulment and Void Marriages