An annulment is not a divorce. A divorce legally ends a valid marriage, whereas an annulment recognizes that a marriage is not valid and removes it from the legal record, essentially making it as if the marriage never happened at all. For some couples, an annulment has very different legal, financial and interpersonal repercussions from a divorce; for others, annulment is primarily a personal and spiritual choice. While any married couple is legally able to file for divorce, only couples whose marriages fit specific criteria – which vary from state to state – may pursue annulments.
Qualifying for an Annulment
Each state maintains its own legal requirements for ending marriages via annulment. These fall into two categories:
- Reasons for ending marriage.
- Time elapsed since the couple married.
Common reasons for ending marriages via annulment include:
- One or both partners were under 18 and did not have parental permission to marry.
- Either spouse is physically incapable of engaging in sexual intercourse.
- One or both spouses is legally married to somebody else.
- One or both spouses committed fraud, such as failing to disclose substantial debt.
- Either spouse was unable to consent to the marriage due to mental incapacity.
In some states, a marriage that is invalid for one of these reasons becomes valid if the couple does not annul it before a specific amount of time has passed. For example, in California, this period is four years in most cases. In Ohio, it is usually two years.
Online Annulment Service Vs. DIY Annulment
There are two ways an individual can conduct her annulment online. One is to use an online annulment service like Document Do It Yourself Service or MyDivorcePapers.com. With these services, the individual provides her relevant information and pays a fee to have a professional, who may or may not be a family lawyer, properly fill out the paperwork and, in some cases, submit it to the court and serve annulment paperwork to her spouse. The information she provides must include:
- Her name and her spouse’s name.
- Her current address and if different, her spouse’s address.
- The date of their marriage.
- The city and state where their marriage occurred.
- Her reason for filing annulment.
Some lawyers also provide similar services, where the client simply provides the necessary information and pays a fee for the lawyer to prepare and submit her annulment online.
An individual considering filing annulment can also complete the process by himself using online resources. He can obtain the paperwork he needs from his county’s circuit court or through a private website like USLegalForms.com. In some jurisdictions, he can file the paperwork with the court electronically through the court’s website. In others, he must print out the paperwork, fill it in manually, then send it to the court in the mail or deliver it by hand.
In-Person Steps for Filing Annulment Online
Even when a person uses an online service to petition to annul his marriage, there are certain steps he must complete in person to officially exit and erase the marriage. In some jurisdictions, an individual completing a DIY annulment has to submit the annulment paperwork to his county’s circuit court in person. He also has to serve his spouse notice of the annulment, which typically has to be done by a disinterested third party like the county sheriff or a trusted acquaintance, but can sometimes be performed by the filer himself. Under certain circumstances, he may serve his spouse via email.
Additionally, he may be required to attend an in-person hearing at the circuit courthouse, during which a judge determines whether he qualifies for an annulment. If the court does deem the filer’s reasons to be valid, it may approve the annulment and eliminate the marriage from its records.