Grounds for a Marriage to be Declared Null and/or Void

There are 17 states in the U.S. that are known as “no fault” divorce states. In these states, which include Wisconsin, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Nebraska, Montana, Missouri, Minnesota, Michigan, Kentucky, Kansas, Iowa, Indiana, Hawaii, Florida, Colorado and California, a spouse may file a petition for divorce with his/her partner without the need of having to cite a reasonable ground, such as adultery or cruelty. Thus, simply stating “irreconcilable differences,” which renders a marriage being beyond repair, as the basis for divorce would already be acceptable. All other remaining states are known as ‘fault” divorce states due to need for the one filing for divorce to cite a valid reason due to which the divorce is being sought.

Divorce, however, may be filed only if the marriage entered into by two individuals is legally binding. If a marriage, from the very start was null or invalid, then termination of the marital union should be through annulment.

An annulment is a legal declaration of the cancellation of a marriage. It has to be canceled and declared canceled to give the spouses, or a spouse who has been offended (based on the second reason below), the right to enter, this time, into a legally binding marital union. A marriage is considered non-legally binding and, therefore, invalid from very start, due to any of the following reasons:

• It was entered into by blood-related individuals (most states outlaw marriages between relatives closer than second cousins). Allowing the union to go on would result to incest;
• One of the individuals is in an existing marriage, thus, making succeeding marriages acts of bigamy;
• One or both of the spouses are under the age of 16 when they entered into marriage.

In certain instances, on the other hand, when a marital union is considered legal but will have to voided or canceled due to the following grounds:

• Fraud, such as when one keeps secret a prior marriage, a felony conviction or addiction, and/or having a child from a previous marriage;
• Coercion, which is the case when one spouse was forced by the other (such as through threats) to enter into marriage;
• Intoxication due to alcohol or drug since this renders either of the spouses lacking the full capacity to consent to marriage;
• Mental incapacitation, since this renders one or both spouses unable to fully grasp the responsibilities and duties with a married life; and,
• Impotence or the inability of one spouse to have sexual intercourse.

For a court to grant a petitioner for annulment, however, Austin divorce attorneys explain that the petitioner for annulment should stop cohabiting with his/her partner after he/she learns of the claimed ground/s for the annulment. If the petitioner does otherwise, then no annulment will be granted by a Texas court.

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