Statistics don't lie, and the fact is most marriages end in separation and dissolution. If you find yourself in the position of having to end your marriage, then know you're not alone. The process can be painful and emotional, and it's also a confusing time for most. The legal process is often overwhelming for those going through a divorce or annulment in Pennsylvania. In fact, many don't even know if they should go through with formal divorce proceedings or if they should get their marriage annulled.
If your marriage is coming to an end, you should work with a PA divorce attorney who understands what you're going through. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped countless individuals through the process of ending their marriages, and he can help you too.
How does a PA Annulment Differ from a Divorce?
An annulment is a formal proceeding that terminates a marriage like a divorce does. Annulments vary from divorce proceedings, however, in that when an annulment is ordered, it basically means your marriage was never valid to begin with. Essentially, the court order that results from an annulment means: because your marriage wasn't valid, you didn't need a divorce to end it.
If you're wondering whether an annulment is a good option for you, consider that some individuals prefer to get an annulment for religious reasons. Unfortunately, sometimes a marriage should still end regardless of religion, and an annulment is a way to end a marriage without technically divorcing. Importantly, you'll need a civil annulment, and not just a religious annulment, if you want the state of PA to recognize the end of your marriage.
The Grounds for an Annulment in PA
Grounds for annulment are different from the grounds for divorce in Pennsylvania. In PA, an annulment may be granted if your marriage is void or voidable. A marriage is void when state law prohibits it, to begin with, but for whatever reason, you were still able to obtain and file a marriage license.
Under PA Statutes Section 3304, a marriage will be considered void when:
- One or both of the parties were already married at the time of their marriage to each other.
- When parties are related too closely by blood.
- Where one or both parties were incapable of giving consent to the marriage.
- Where parties to a common law marriage were under 18 years of age at the time of the marriage.
Slightly different is the issue of a voidable marriage. A voidable marriage is one that wasn't per se illegal, to begin with, but if challenged, would be considered unenforceable. Specifically, under PA Statute Section 3305, a marriage is voidable when:
- One or both parties were under 16 years of age, unless approved by the court in some circumstances.
- “...either party was 16 or 17 years of age and lacked the consent of parent or guardian or express authorization of the court and has not subsequently ratified the marriage upon reaching 18 years of age and an action for annulment is commenced within 60 days after the marriage ceremony.”
- “…either party to the marriage was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and an action for annulment is commenced within 60 days after the marriage ceremony.”
- One or both parties to the marriage are incurably impotent unless the non-impotent partner knew this when they got married.
- Where one party was induced into the marriage through fraud or under duress.
The process of proving your marriage was void or voidable can be a difficult task, and requires nuanced understanding of the related laws. You should always work with an attorney when seeking an annulment.
What's the Problem with Getting an Annulment?
Certain factors may be complicated when you decide to get an annulment instead of a divorce. For one thing, often, the other person in the marriage doesn't want to have it annulled. For obvious reasons, especially if the marriage was illegal, to begin with, this battle can get ugly. That doesn't mean you shouldn't fight for it if it's what you want. You do need to prepare yourself for a complex legal battle ahead, though. Further, an annulment won't result in an order that awards you any sort of alimony or even custody of your children. If you wish to have your marriage annulled and you also have minor children, you may need to work with your attorney to file additional custody-related motions with the court.
There are important reasons that a person should be able to annul their marriage if they wish, and you should always speak with an experienced PA family law attorney before undertaking the process of annulment.
Should I get a Divorce or an Annulment?
A divorce can be a better option for you if there are a lot of marital assets involved or if there are minor children who will become the subject of a custody battle. Accordingly, if you have minor children, if there are a lot of marital assets, or if you'd otherwise qualify for alimony, you may want to consider filing for a divorce instead.
An experienced PA family law attorney can help you understand the facts of your case and what option might be best for you.
Do I need a Lawyer to Annul my Marriage?
You wouldn't go through a divorce without a lawyer, and the truth is annulments are more complicated than many divorces, especially simple no-fault divorce cases. As outlined above, qualifying for an annulment can require a difficult proving of facts. If the other party doesn't want the marriage annulled, then you'll have a big legal fight ahead of you. That said, annulments are important to people for many reasons, and Mr. Lento and his team are here to help you fight for an annulment of your marriage. To learn more, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686, or contact us online.