An annulment is the legal determination that a marriage did not exist. In Maryland, when discussing annulments you must first understand that a marriage can be void or voidable. A marriage is void, meaning it is automatically not recognized by the law, for these very limited reasons: bigamy, consanguinity, and if expressly void by statute. Bigamy means a person cannot be married to more than one person at a time. Consanguinity is the marrying of a blood relative.
On the other hand, a voidable marriage is a marriage where a defect is present that could render the marriage void. This means that unless challenged in Court, the marriage is still valid and will be recognized under the law despite the defect.
A marriage may be voidable for the following reasons:
- Failure to have a license or ceremony;
- Duress; and
In Maryland, the parties must have a validly obtained marriage license and they must have a legally recognized civil ceremony or a religious ceremony. If the parties did not have a marriage license or marriage ceremony, and the marriage is challenged by one or both of the parties, the Court will grant an annulment and it will be as if the marriage never existed.
In order to get an annulment on the basis of age, there must be evidence presented that one or both of the parties was under the age of eighteen (18) years old when they got married. The only exception is if the party has the consent of his or her parents or is pregnant, than he or she may be married at sixteen (16) or seventeen (17) years old in Maryland.
Insanity is another way that a marriage can be voided. For an annulment to be granted on the basis of insanity, there must be clear and convincing proof presented that a party did not have the mental capacity to understand the nature of the marriage.
Intoxication at the time of the marriage is also a defect that can render a marriage voidable if it is challenged. This is because alcohol and other illegal substances interfere with the party’s ability to knowingly and intelligently enter into the marriage.
Duress means that there was compulsion to enter into the marriage by force or threat of force. In order to get an annulment on the basis of duress, the party must prove that the duress existed at the time of the marriage ceremony that the duress instilled a reasonable fear of great bodily harm, and the duress was the reason the party consented to the marriage.
Finally, a marriage can be annulled on the basis of fraud. For the Court to grant an annulment because of fraud, the fraudulent misrepresentations must relate to essential matters affecting the health or well being of the parties or must be something that compelled or persuaded the party to enter into the marriage. It should be noted that fraudulent misrepresentations relating to matters such as rank, fame, fortune, habits, temperament are insufficient for the court to grant an annulment. In determining what is the nature and kind of fraud that warrants an annulment, the age and mental condition of the injured party are controlling factors.
If you are seeking an annulment from your spouse, you need a qualified and knowledgeable Maryland annulment attorney who will protect your rights. Contact our office immediately to set-up a consultation with one of our family law attorneys.