|ANNULMENT IN TEXAS
|Contents of the Texas Divorce Course
As bizarre as Jeffs' story sounds, it not only happened, but it happened in a small town in Central Texas. And, really, it's a wonderful illustration, because this was a person whose marriage was both void and voidable.
Void and voidable? Those are just legal terms for the grounds that you must have to get an annulment in Texas. Unfortunately, most people who are thinking of getting an annulment don't meet the requirements, and end up getting a divorce. And many people who are seeking annulments are Catholic, and don't understand that a civil annulment is not the same thing as a religious annulment.
So what are the grounds for annulment of a marriage in Texas? They're divided into two different groups: void marriages and voidable marriages. Void marriages are marriages that never could have been, and voidable marriages are marriages that never should have been.
There are two grounds for declaring a marriage void in Texas: consanguinity and the existence of a prior marriage.
Consanguinity is just a large word for getting married to someone who is too close a relative. By that they mean a father or mother, a child, a brother or sister, an aunt or an uncle, a nephew or a niece. If you marry that close a relative, then you can seek an annulment to declare your marriage void.
You can also have your marriage declared void if your spouse was married to someone else when he/she married you. Obviously, one of the prerequisites of getting married under our laws is that you have to be a single person. If you're not, you can't enter into a marriage contract and the marriage is void.
However . . . if you stay married to the person and they dissolve their first marriage, then you automatically become married to them when the first marriage ends. Now let's talk about voidable marriages.
Marriage Under Age 14
If you entered into a marriage when you were under 14 years of age, then you can get an annulment. The suit can be brought by your parents, managing conservator, or even a friend of the court. It must be brought within 90 days of the date that the petitioner knew of the marriage or within 90 days of the 14th birthday of the party to the marriage, whichever is later.
Marriage Under Age 18
If you entered into a marriage when you were over 14 but under 18, and you did it without parental consent or a court order, then you can get an annulment. The suit can be brought by your parents, by your managing conservator, or by a friend of the court. An annulment under this section can't be brought if you've turned 18 since you got married.
Under Influence of Alcohol or Drugs
Nothing very fancy about this one. If you were too swacked to know what you were doing and you woke up in bed the next with morning with a wedding ring on, then you can get an annulment. However . . . you can't get the annulment if you've voluntarily cohabited with the person since you sobered up. In other words, if you ran screaming out of the house, you're fine. If you rolled over, went back to sleep, woke up, made love a few times, and then stayed there for a week, you're out of luck.
The court can grant an annulment if either party was permanently impotent at the time of the marriage. That's what section 6.106 of the Family Code says. I know, I know . . I didn't know that women could be impotent, either, but there you are. If it says it in the Texas Family Code, it's gotta be true.
Seriously, though, what they're talking about here is any condition, physical or mental, that permanently prevents either party from being able to have sex. If you got married to someone with the full expectation of being able to have normal sexual relations with him/her - or even abnormal - and you then learned that they weren't capable of doing that, you can get an annulment.
However . . . you can not have known of the condition at the time that you got married, and you cannot have voluntarily lived with the other party since you learned of it.
FRAUD, DURESS, OR FORCE
Duress or force are pretty easy to define here. If you got married to someone because they threatened to hurt you or they put enormous psychological pressure on you, then you can get an annulment.
Fraud is a little harder to pin down. If, for instance, you were to marry a woman with the expectation that she was a normal, heterosexual female, and she turned out to be a lesbian, that would be fraud. If someone so grossly misrepresents themselves that you could have never known who they actually were, that would be fraud. Basically, it's getting seriously conned by the person you married.
Now, that doesn't include such things as getting married to a neat, romantic man and then finding out that he dribbles his dirty laundry all over the house and never shaves on Sunday. That doesn't include finding out that your wife actually always hated fishing and she was just telling you she liked it because you were courting.
If you file under these grounds, you cannot have lived with the person since you learned of the fraud, or from the time that you were able to escape whatever duress or force made you marry him/her.
This, again, goes back to marriage being a contract that's freely entered into by two competent individuals. The Family Code breaks this down into two sections. You can get an annulment under these grounds if:
- at the time you were married you lacked the mental capacity to consent to a marriage or understand the nature of the marriage relationship because of mental illness or a mental defect; and, you did not go on voluntarily living with the other person when you had the mental capacity to understand what you had done. In other words, if you were severely mentally ill, or had suffered an injury that diminished your ability to understand marriage, and then you recovered from it and immediately moved out, then you can get an annulment.
You can also get an annulment under these grounds if:
Your spouse did not have the mental capacity to understand the nature of marriage or to enter into the marital contract;
and - there was no way that you could have known that your spouse lacked that capacity;
and - you haven't lived with your spouse since you discovered that he/she lacked the mental capacity to understand the marriage relationship or to enter into the marital contract.
Texas has a law that says that you can't get married within 30 days after you get a divorce. Basically, that's to give the other party a chance to get their paperwork from the divorce and reopen the case if they think they've gotten screwed.
So, if your spouse got married to you LESS than 30 days after he/she got a divorce, AND there was no way that you could have known about that, AND you quit living with your spouse right after you found out, then you can get an annulment. BUT . . . you can't get an annulment on these grounds after your first wedding anniversary.
Marriage Less Than 72 Hours After Issuance of the Marriage License
Texas requires people to wait at least 72 hours after they get their marriage license before they can get married. If you find out that your spouse didn't wait those 72 hours, you can get an annulment. And you should remember to actually read things like marriage licenses in the future. They can be important.
You can't file for an annulment under these grounds, if you've been married for more than 30 days.
So, those are the grounds for annulment under Texas family law. If you meet the requirements of any of them, then you can file for an annulment. If you don't, you have to get a divorce.
What are the major differences? Annulment is quicker. There's a 60 day waiting period for a divorce. Annulments can be granted immediately. Another major difference, however, is that you have to be able to prove your grounds in an annulment hearing. If you go into court and say you were drunk as a skunk when you got married or your wife turned out to be as frigid as an icebox, you've got to prove it. If you can't, no annulment. In a divorce, you can file, "no fault," and just say that you're incompatible, and you don't have to prove anything.
About the author: Daniel Adair spent 16 years working in a family law office in Central Texas. He is the author of, "The Texas Divorce Course, A Peoples' Guide to the Texas Divorce System," and has written extensively on the Texas divorce process.