In many respects, seeking an annulment is similar to seeking a divorce. Both result in the legal separation of a couple. An annulment, however, is a legal declaration that a marriage never happened, and without an experienced attorney by your side, it can be difficult to obtain. Given a choice, judges typically prefer to grant a no-fault divorce instead of granting an annulment.
Going through any relationship separation, especially a legal one can be an incredibly trying and painful experience. At Christensen Law, we understand that this is a stressful and emotional time for you. Annulments can only be granted under certain qualifying circumstances, which are not always clear-cut. The knowledgeable annulment lawyers at Christensen Law have experience with the intricacies of Utah marriage law, however, and we can help you through this difficult period in your life.
You need the help of a skilled annulment attorney to support you through the annulment process and answer all your questions. We have helped many clients facing similar circumstances and can guide you through the hard decisions involved in a separation like this. You don’t have to go through this alone. Call us at (801) 303-5800 to schedule a free consultation.
What is an Annulment?
Courts can terminate Marriages in Utah either by divorce or annulment. Whereas divorce acknowledges that a marriage existed at one time and is now dissolved, an annulment states that the marriage never legally existed.
Annulments are sometimes an alternative to divorce, and under some religions are considered valid where divorce would not be an option. A person who has received an annulment for a marriage may be permitted by their religion to remarry.
A civil annulment, which is the subject of this page, is governed by court order. Religious annulments are a different matter, and often need to be handled within their own religious tradition, though you still may be able to benefit from the advice of a lawyer.
In Utah, there are certain legal grounds that at least one of which the petitioning party must establish in order to have a marriage annulled:
- The married persons are too closely related to each other.
- One person significantly himself or herself to the other, to hide significant facts relating to the essence of the marriage.
- One person is already married to someone else.
- A person is under 18 and does not have parental consent.
- A person is unable to consummate the marriage.
- One person commits extreme fraud which impacts the marriage.
- State laws governing marriage were not followed, such as failure to obtain a marriage license.
- Any other reason that would make the marriage prohibited or void under Utah law
- Any other reason allowed by the common law
Getting an annulment in Utah can be difficult, and courts will often decide that the parties qualify only for a divorce. A hearing at which the judge must be persuaded to grant the annulment is almost always required, even when the parties agree to the annulment from the beginning. It is important to have an attorney who is knowledgeable about annulments under Utah law.
How to Get an Annulment in Utah
The first step is to file a petition for annulment in the district court of the county in which you or your spouse is domiciled. Utah has no time limit within which a person must file for an annulment.
There are a number of things you will need to list in your filing, including your and your spouse’s full names, the legal grounds for your annulment, and facts that should be addressed as part of your case, including property division, child custody, alimony, child support, and other issues related to your separation. Your attorney can help you with these considerations. The petition must then be served on your spouse.
Once the petition has been served, the case will proceed in due course. If the other side stipulates to the annulment, the court will schedule a hearing. You should bring any witnesses and evidence to the hearing that will help to prove your grounds for annulment. The judge will then rule as to whether the marriage is annulled. Otherwise, if there is no stipulation, the case will go through the standard discovery process, followed eventually by a trial. It is probably good to petition in the alternative for a divorce so that you can obtain a divorce even if the judge declines to grant an annulment.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a few questions you may have when considering an annulment:
How is an annulment different than a divorce?
Although both involve legal termination of a marriage, getting a divorce means that a marriage that exists between two people is ending. Getting an annulment means that the marriage never legally existed, and so is more appropriate or necessary in cases where the fact of a marriage is harmful to the situation or feelings of one of the parties.
Annulment proceedings can be similar to divorce proceedings. The court will attempt to fairly divide or dispose of property, debts, etc. The court can make custody, child support, and parent time orders, and even potentially support and maintenance for the parties whose marriage will be annulled. Cases with children can be tricky, and you should ask your lawyer about any issues that might affect your children.
Should I get a divorce or an annulment?
This is a highly fact-specific and individual question. Overall, a divorce is going to be easier and thus cheaper. But, sometimes asking for both is not going to cost much more anyway. If you have a specific need for an annulment, then that need will likely drive you to try for an annulment. Specific needs might include a desire to reinstate a prior alimony obligation or religious situations. If you are worried about a prior alimony award, you will need to make sure the obligor under that award is given notice of the annulment case. Christensen Law can help you make the best decision for your circumstances.
How will annulment affect child custody or child support?
Utah does not place a limit on the time between marriage and annulment, so there may be children involved in the relationship. An annulment does not relieve either spouse from their legal responsibility to care for their children, even though the marriage has been declared invalid. The children of the relationship are still considered the children of the parties and have the same rights. Custody, visitation, and child support determinations will need to be made just as in a divorce, but they may be made by the court as part of the annulment action.
Contact Christensen Law Today
If you are considering having your marriage annulled, the dedicated Salt Lake City family attorneys at Christensen Law can help. We have extensive experience helping people in Utah with annulments, as well as with other family legal matters.
As our client, your satisfaction is important to us. At a difficult time like this, you have other things in your life to focus on. Let us help you. Set up a free consultation with us today by calling (801) 303-5800 or visiting us at our website.