Most couples who get married are planning for a lifetime together, but some can’t foresee that may not be a long time. Sometimes circumstances make staying in the marriage too difficult to bear. You’re led to a tough but quick decision between divorce or trying to force the relationship to work. Some couples actually have another option: annulment.

Most of the time the word annulment is associated with surprise celebrity weddings that end with a quick thud. In today’s world where many reality tv shows are built on the premise that romance is a sort of social experiment, you hear of annulment more often than divorce. The State of Maryland just experienced one of these experiments gone awry. The marriage of  Brandon Reid and Taylor Dunklin from Lifetime’s Married at First Sight is ending in annulment. Reasons cited in the filing include an accusation that Taylor committed adultery and participated in the show only to gain exposure.

Why an annulment might be a more suitable option

While every couple calling it quits is entitled to obtain a divorce, only certain situations lend themselves to proceeding with annulment. The difference between the two methods for terminating a marriage is that annulment in effect, erases the marriage as if it never existed while divorce is simply a legal end to your romantic partnership.

In some instances religious affiliation may drive the preference for annulment over divorce. Some faiths don’t approve of divorce and therefore you may not be free to remarry and still be accepted in your religious community. Annulment may be your only option under those circumstances.

Grounds for annulment in Maryland

Invalidating a marriage should be pursued as soon as possible upon learning you may qualify. Maryland courts are already reluctant to grant annulments and delaying only increases the likelihood that you’ll be required to take the traditional divorce route. Annulments require clear proof of:

  • Bigamy. If one party was already legally married at the time of your marriage ceremony, your marriage is automatically void.
  • Mental incompetence. If one party to the marriage is declared legally incompetent, he or she had no legal ability to enter into a marriage contract making the marriage void.
  • Being under age 18. Any individual who is under the age of 18 and who did not receive parental consent can choose to void the marriage.
  • Inability to consummate the marriage. If either party is physically unable to perform intercourse, the capable party is entitled to have the marriage voided.
  • Consent was obtained by fraud, duress, or force. In this situation, the individual who was tricked or coerced into marriage has the right to void the marriage.
  • Illegitimate officiant. If your marriage ceremony was performed by someone lacking proper legal authority to officiate wedding ceremonies, either party is entitled to have the marriage voided.

Annulment FAQs

Will my children be legitimate if I receive an annulment?

Yes. Your children will still be legitimate even though your marriage will never have existed under the eyes of the law.

What happens to marital property if we annul our marriage?

Under Maryland law, your marital property will still be divided in the same manner as if you went through the divorce process. Equitable distribution will be applied to asset division.

Will I be entitled to child support?

Yes. You will be eligible to receive child support just as you would in a divorce. The same factors and calculations apply to child support decisions.

How is custody and visitation determined?

Child custody and visitation will still be decided based on the best interest of the child.

Can I receive alimony?

Yes. You are still entitled to seek an award of alimony under an annulment. The court will determine such award using the same alimony factors as in a formal divorce.

No matter the length of your marriage, you deserve the ability to leave with dignity and respect. If you are contemplating ending your marriage, our experienced attorneys at McCabe Russell, P.A. will explain your rights and legal options. To schedule your consultation for a professional case evaluation with one of our qualified Rockville family law attorneys, we invite you to call 443-812-1435, or reach out to us through our contact form. We maintain additional offices in Fulton, Bethesda, and Columbia.