Here at the Law Office Of Louis Lombardo, PC we proudly represent clients in Phoenix, Chandler, Mesa, Gilbert, Queen Creek, Tempe & other cities throughout Arizona in annulment & other family law matters.
Although most marriages end in a divorce, some do not just “end” but are undone altogether, as if the marriage had never occurred. These cases are called “annulments” and they are an option in only a limited number of situations. The theory behind an annulment is that the marriage was never valid from the onset for a very specific reason, and therefore there is no need for a divorce, just an order returning the parties to the status they were before the marriage. The reasons why a marriage may be invalid can vary, but they typically fall into one of the following categories:
– One or both parties did not have the legal capacity to marry
The most common example is where one party is already married, and thus cannot legally enter into another marriage. Other examples in this category would include parties under the age of consent (18) or parties too closely related to the other by a blood relationship (e.g., first cousins).
In certain cases where the court finds that one party made false representations of love and affection to the other with certain ulterior motives (like depriving the other of his or her property), the court may find that the marriage was never valid because it was entered into under fraudulent pretenses and was not intended as a true marriage. The most popular example is the younger “gold digger” seeking to take advantage of an elderly person with lots of money. Other examples have included such things as false representations regarding religious beliefs, desire to have children, or regarding other subjects so integral to any marriage that the fundamental purpose of entering into marriage by the other party is defeated by the fraud.
– Lack of intent
Similar to claims of fraud but without the intention to mislead, marriages can be annulled if the court finds that the parties did not truly mean to get married. The most obvious example would be where the parties were so inebriated that the did not realize what they were doing. Other examples could include the lack of mental capacity to enter into contracts in general, but could include such things as marrying under duress (e.g., a “shotgun” wedding) or trying to marry someone by “proxy” (using a third party to stand in for one of the spouses during the ceremony). Some marriages have even been annulled because of misrepresentations regarding the paternity of a child.
Not every claim of fraud is going to rise to the level where the court feels the marriage was never truly valid in the first place. For example, lying about one’s “station and condition in life” is not necessarily thing that undermines the concept of marriage altogether. Also, if the parties know about the “defect” in their marriage but do nothing to fix it, the court not accept the “defect” as a valid basis for undoing the marriage and granting an annulment.
If you or a loved one is going through a similar case, please give my office a call at 480-413-9300. We will give your case an initial evaluation and and advise you on the next steps to take.