Under Maryland divorce law and the divorce law of the District of Columbia, there is a procedure for ending a marriage called an “annulment.” Annulment has some similarities to obtaining a Maryland/DC divorce, but they are legally distinct and have different legal requirements. Further, annulment has the legal significance that the marriage is considered not to have happened. In other words, annulment states that the marriage was not valid. By contrast, divorce terminates a valid marriage. If you think you might be eligible for an annulment, call us here at the Law Offices of Thomas Stahl at (410) 696-4326 or (202) 964-7280. We have offices in Columbia, MD and Washington, DC. We are Maryland/DC divorce attorneys handling contested Maryland/DC divorces, annulments and other family law legal matters.
What is an annulment in Maryland/DC?
As noted, annulment in Maryland/DC is a declaration from a Maryland divorce court or a DC divorce court that the marriage was not valid when entered into. So, like a divorce, obtaining an annulment is a judicial proceeding. You must file a petition/case in the Maryland or DC courts.
Who is eligible for an annulment in Maryland/DC?
To seek an annulment of your marriage, certain facts must be proven. These are generally called the “grounds” for an annulment (like there are “grounds” for a divorce). In Maryland and DC, the grounds for an annulment are these:
- Blood relationship is too close – called “consanguinity” and usually involves a marriage closer than first cousins; as an example, a mistaken brother-sister marriage
- Bigamy – one spouse was still married at the time of the second marriage
- Fraud – one spouse induced the marriage through fraud and/or deceit
- Duress or coercion – one spouse entered the marriage through duress or coercion
- Mental incapacity – one spouse was mentally incompetent to enter a marriage and understand the significance of marriage
- Inability or refusal to physically consummate the marriage – could be basis for a fraud annulment if this was concealed before the marriage
- One spouse was underage at the time of the marriage – slightly different rules in Maryland and DC with both having exceptions for parental consent
When can you seek an annulment?
There is no time limit for seeking an annulment. For example, if one spouse discovers that that other committed bigamy five years into the marriage, that spouse could still seek an annulment.
Void vs. voidable marriages in Maryland
In Maryland, the annulment laws distinguish a marriage that is void and one that is voidable. Both are forms of annulment. In practice, the distinction will only matter in rare cases. If you discover that there is an annulment ground for your divorce, it is best to take legal action.
What about property division, child custody, support and alimony?
When a couple has their Maryland/DC marriage annulled, if relevant, the court will still undertake various “divorce-like” actions. So, after an annulment, the court will equitably divide the couple’s assets, make a decision on child custody and support payments (if necessary) and can award alimony from one spouse to the other.
Maryland and DC Divorce and Family Law Attorneys
For more information, contact the seasoned and experienced Maryland and DC divorce, family law and estate planning attorneys at The Law Offices of Thomas Stahl. We have the experience and expertise you need. We also have proven experience with divorce and family law for Maryland and the District of Columbia. Schedule a consultation today or call us at (410) 696-4326 or (202) 964-7280. We have offices in Columbia, MD and Washington, DC.