Is Annulment an Option for a Short-Term Marriage in Georgia?
In some instances, one or both spouses in a marriage may wish to end their marriage by choosing a civil annulment instead of a divorce. But what are the differences between a civil annulment and a divorce, and when should you file for one or the other? Can you get alimony as a part of an annulment? Our attorneys provide an overview of civil annulments in Georgia and explain why you may want to consult a legal professional for annulment matters before filing for an annulment.
What Is the Difference Between an Annulment and a Divorce?
Divorces and annulments have a similar result – both processes end a marriage. A divorce is a legal proceeding that ends an existing marriage between two people and requires a series of decisions to be made, such as how marital property will be divided and how child custody will be handled. Once the divorce is finalized, the marriage is officially terminated, and both parties can live separate lives and get married if they so choose.
In contrast, an annulment is a declaration that a marriage is void, invalid, and, therefore, never existed. In order to get an annulment, you must observe specific requirements, as Georgia courts approach annulment requests skeptically. Many people seeking annulments may actually need to get a traditional divorce, so it’s important to understand whether your situation qualifies for an annulment and what other legal options you may have.
What Are the Grounds for an Annulment in Georgia?
In order to be eligible for an annulment, you may be required to prove that your marriage is void or prohibited by law. The grounds for an annulment include showing that at the time of the ceremony, one or both spouses were mentally incompetent, underage (and married without parental consent), or still legally married to another individual. Additionally, a marriage may be annulled if either spouse was a victim of coercion, fraud, or undue pressure from the other spouse or by a third party. Finally, a marriage that is considered incestuous – one in which the spouses are closely related by blood – may also be eligible for an annulment.
In general, the length of the marriage is not usually a relevant factor, but it is important to understand that each situation is unique, and even if you do believe you have the grounds for an annulment, you may find that a divorce may be necessary to end the relationship. This is because if the court finds evidence that your marriage has been ratified – meaning you still chose to live with your spouse and have a marital relationship – you may have waived your right to a complaint, and the marriage may not be annulled.
In addition, Georgia laws prohibit the annulment of marriages for spouses who have children together or are expecting a child. According to Ga. Code § 19-4-1, “(…) annulments may not be granted in instances where children are born or are to be born as a result of the marriage.” Couples with children who wish to terminate their relationship may need to seek divorce instead.
What Is the Process to Get an Annulment in Georgia?
If you are seeking an annulment, your first step should be talking to a lawyer experienced in marriage dissolution to ensure you have the grounds to support your petition. The process of getting an annulment is similar to that of a divorce as it requires similar paperwork – it begins with filing a petition for annulment and serving the appropriate papers to your spouse.
Your spouse may then respond by agreeing to the annulment or opposing it. In the event that your spouse does not agree with the annulment, the case may have to be heard in court, and a jury trial may be necessary in some cases. It is also worth mentioning that an annulment may also require the division of marital assets in some cases, as courts in Georgia may be able to equally divide the spouse’s joint debts and assets.
When Should I Seek Legal Help for an Annulment?
Getting an annulment means declaring that a marriage never legally existed. Even though an annulment means the parties to live separately and marry others, it may come with unintended consequences, such as the need to divide property between the spouses. Getting legal help is crucial to make sure you are taking the correct steps – as explained above, Georgia courts may look at annulment petitions a bit skeptically, and many couples would likely reach more favorable results by seeking a divorce instead of an annulment.
For example, if one of the spouses requires financial support to live independently or gain job skills to support themselves, that person may seek alimony or spousal support payments as a part of a divorce. However, because alimony is a payment from one former spouse to the other, it is usually not ordered during or after an annulment – by getting an annulment, the parties are declaring they have never been married, and therefore this type of support is typically not available in an annulment case.
At Lunn Law LLC, our family law attorneys are well-versed in a variety of family law matters, including annulment and divorce. If you have questions about the process of getting an annulment in Georgia or need to know what other options may be available to you, we encourage you to call our law office at 770-762-4628 and request an initial consultation to discuss your case and learn how we can help you.