Are you wondering if you are eligible for an annulment? Learn about the grounds for annulment in Arizona and how to obtain one.
Annulment is a frequently misunderstood legal concept, owing to the fact that popular culture and religion have promoted divergent and frequently erroneous views of what an annulment is in family law.
This article discusses “civil annulments,” as opposed to “religious annulments,” which can be granted only by a church or clergy member and have no legal effect on your marital status.
Annulments and divorces are similar in that they both establish marital status. However, the critical distinction between them is that divorce terminates an existing, valid marriage, whereas annulment simply declares that what everyone believed was a marriage was never actually one. An annulled marriage never existed in the eyes of the law.
Arizona’s Grounds for Annulment
There are several circumstances in which you may petition an Arizona court to annul your marriage:
- One of the parties was married to another individual (bigamy).
- The parties are blood relatives.
- At the time of the marriage, one of the parties was a minor and did not obtain the consent of a parent or guardian.
- One of the parties, or both, lacked the mental capacity to marry.
- Both parties lacked the physical ability to marry.
- At the time of the marriage, one or both parties were intoxicated.
- The parties lacked the intent to enter into a marriage contract, either one of them or both.
- The parties failed to obtain an official marriage license in a timely manner.
- Instead of marrying each other in person, the parties used a proxy (substitute).
- One of the parties committed fraud in order to obtain the consent of the other party to the marriage.
- The one party used coercion (legally referred to as “duress”) to coerce the other party into agreeing to marry.
- The parties have not engaged in sexual relations or one of the parties has refused to engage in sexual relations.
- One of the parties fabricated information about his or her religion.
- One of the parties omitted information about his or her previous marital status.
- One of the parties planned to violate a premarital agreement in secret.
How Can I Obtain a Court Order Terminating My Marriage?
Due to the fact that annulment actions are heard in Arizona’s superior (trial) courts, you must file your paperwork at your local courthouse. By court order, an Arizona superior court judge can declare a marriage null and void and annul it. The “plaintiff” (the party seeking annulment) should file an annulment petition, and the defendant should respond. Additional documents may be required, and both parties must adhere to the rules governing service of process. Both will be summoned to appear in court, where the court will hear testimony, consider written submissions and applicable law, and issue an order.
Because annulments have significant financial and custodial consequences, it is critical to consult with a lawyer prior to proceeding.
Certain individuals fear that if their marriage is annulled, the paternity of their children will be questioned. Technically, this is correct. Due to the fact that an annulled marriage is invalid, the children born of the “marriage” are illegitimate, as if they were born to single parents. This, however, is a technical distinction with little practical significance, as Arizona law provides that “every child is the legitimate child of its natural parents and is entitled to support and education in the same manner as if born in lawful wedlock.” Thus, all children in Arizona receive the same level of protection and support regardless of their parents’ marital status, whether they are divorced or never married. While that statute does not affect parental rights, the courts in Arizona have also determined that parents of children born outside of marriage have co-equal custody of their children once paternity is established.
In Arizona, a presumption of paternity is created (a strong legal assumption that the alleged father is the biological father) if any of the following are true:
the father and mother were married within the ten months preceding the child’s birth, or the child is born within the ten months following the marriage’s termination by death, divorce, or annulment.
- Genetic testing establishes at least a 95% probability of paternity.
- A birth certificate is signed by both the mother and father of an unmarried child, or
- Both parents sign a notarized or witnessed statement acknowledging paternity.
- Thus, the majority of children born out of annulled marriages in Arizona are almost certainly covered by a paternity presumption. If a father wishes to contest this presumption, he must establish his paternity through “clear and convincing” (very strong and substantial) evidence.
Additionally, the Arizona court hearing the annulment case will determine parentage and enter custody and child support orders.
Because an annulled marriage is legally regarded as never having been valid, courts in the majority of states lack the authority to award alimony or divide property or debts. This is because there cannot be a marital estate without a valid marriage. However, Arizona is unique in that it has a more generous statute. According to Arizona law, when a marriage is annulled, the courts must divide the property between the spouses.