When a married couple decides to part ways, it is a common assumption that they will be getting a divorce. That is not necessarily the case, as some people are filing papers to seek an annulment instead of a divorce. What is the difference?
An annulment means that the marriage never existed, while a divorce is the legal dismantling of not only the marriage contract, but assets and property acquired during the marriage. With an annulment, both parties become “re-virginized” as far as martial status, which is a highly prized state in some religions.
However, an annulment is difficult to obtain because the parties involved must meet a specific set of criteria which varies depending on where they live. In the state of Minnesota, there are two different types of annulments: void and voidable.
Marriages that are declared “void” are marriages where the parties did not meet the state’s requirements for obtaining a license. The marriage was never legal according to the state guidelines.
In order to obtain a marriage license in the state of MN:
Ã¢Â?Â¢ The marriage must be between a man and a woman
Ã¢Â?Â¢ If you were married before you must show that your previous marriage was legally terminated.
Ã¢Â?Â¢ Applicants between the ages of 15-18 must have parental consent.
Ã¢Â?Â¢ The marriage ceremony must be presided over by state approved personnel.
Ã¢Â?Â¢ You must have two witnesses who are 16 years of age or older.
If any of these criteria are not met, or fall under the prohibited section of Minnesota law (same sex, bigamy, mental illness, close family blood relationship, etc.) the marriage is considered void.
A marriage can also be declared “voidable” by the state if one person discovers after the marriage that certain facts were not disclosed that affect his/her beliefs or understandings around the marriage. The state of Minnesota requires that in order to have a marriage considered “voidable”, the person requesting the annulment has a specific amount of time to file the necessary paperwork. If it is not done in this time frame, the marriage cannot be annulled. Here are some examples:
Ã¢Â?Â¢ Mental illness- petitioner would have 90 days to file from the point where they discovered this condition.
Ã¢Â?Â¢ Outside influences that impaired judgment were present at the time of the ceremony (drugs or alcohol) – petitioner would have 90 days to file from the point where they discovered this was a factor.
Ã¢Â?Â¢ Impotence or an inability to have a physical relationship- petitioner would have one year to file from the point where they discovered this condition.
Ã¢Â?Â¢ One party was underage- petitioner would have until the date that the underage party reaches legal marriage age.
The state of Minnesota also recognizes a “putative spouse”. What this means is that if the couple lives together in good faith believing they are married, then they are entitled to the same rights as far as assets and property as if they were legally married. This right terminates once the question “are we really married?” comes into play. What this does is protect each person’s interests during the time that they believed they were legally married.
As with any legal matter, talking with an attorney is recommended. Similar to the divorce process, paperwork does need to be filed with the state, and a judge must make the final determination on whether there are sufficient grounds to annul the marriage.