An annulment voids a marriage so that, in the eyes of the law or a religious organization, it is as if the marriage never happened. Annulments differ from divorces, which end marriages as of a specific date. Grounds for seeking a legal or civil annulment vary among states, but require proving a mental, physical, or legal reason why the marriage shouldn't have happened in the first place. Religious organizations that officiate marriages offer non-legal, religious annulments based on different and possibly less stringent criteria.
Show Invalidating Mental Considerations
One way of getting a legal annulment is to show at least one of the spouses did not enter into the union in the appropriate mental state. This could be because the person was mentally incompetent, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, coerced, or agreed to the marriage without the intention of it being truly binding. Annulments also can be granted if a partner entered into the marriage relying on false statements made by the other person. Laws vary among states regarding the kinds of situations that qualify in this last case, but usually the deceived spouse would have needed to end the relationship upon discovering the lie.
Show Invalidating Physical Considerations
A marriage can be legally annulled if one of the spouses is physically incapable of having sexual intercourse to consummate the marriage. Couples only qualify under this condition if the non-impotent member was not informed by the other partner of this condition prior to the marriage.
Show Invalidating Legal Considerations
If a spouse was not legally authorized to get married at the time the marriage took place, then the marriage can be annulled. This occurs when a person was already married to someone else, or when one or both of the partners were underage and did not have the necessary parental or judicial consent to legally marry. Marriages also can be annulled if they are incestuous, such as the spouses being first cousins.
Seek a Religious Annulment
If you do not qualify for a legal annulment, you might still be able to receive an annulment from your religious organization or the one that validated your marriage. The Catholic Church will grant an annulment if there was an essential element missing from the relationship at the outset that prevented you and your spouse from forming a proper lifelong marital bond. For example, you or your spouse could have lacked proper discretion if you got married too young or too quickly. One of you could have lacked the proper intentions to have children, be faithful, and remain together until death.