Procedurally, an annulment is similar to a divorce in Arkansas; you file for one in much the same way. The major difference is the result. A divorce ends a marriage. An annulment nullifies a marriage that should not have happened in the first place. It is more difficult to get an annulment than a divorce in Arkansas because you must meet very narrow grounds to qualify.
You may annul a voidable marriage in Arkansas because, by definition, there was something so fundamentally wrong with the union that neither you nor your spouse should be obligated to keep your vows. If you were tricked into getting married, threatened into the marriage, or if either you or your spouse were incapacitated in some way that prevented you from having an understanding of what you were doing when you got married, you have a voidable marriage and may qualify for annulment. You can also get an annulment if your spouse suffers some physical problem that impacts the marriage, and you didn’t find out until after you exchanged vows.
A void marriage is one that is illegal. It can't exist because it breaks the law, so Arkansas will allow you to annul it. For instance, the legal age to marry without parental consent in Arkansas is 17 for boys and 16 for girls. If teenagers below these ages marry without their parents’ consent, the marriage is void and can be annulled. Other circumstances that would void a marriage are consanguinity -- you are closely related to the person you married -- or you or your spouse is already married and failed to get a divorce.
To file for either an annulment or divorce in Arkansas, you or your spouse must have lived in the state for at least 60 days. You begin the process by filing a petition for annulment with the circuit court just as you would a petition for divorce. If your spouse contests the annulment, you will need to prove your grounds. The procedure would be similar to a divorce trial, and you would have to present proof of why the marriage is either void or voidable. If your spouse doesn’t contest the annulment, you might simply have to meet with the judge in chambers. There, if your circumstances qualify, he will grant your annulment.
If you realize the day after your wedding that you made a huge mistake and want to get out of the marriage, Arkansas won’t let you annul it for that reason alone. Length of marriage is not grounds for annulment. However, you can get a divorce. You and your spouse would have to live separately and apart for 18 months, but then you could file a petition to dissolve the marriage.
- Jupiterimages, Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images