Articles Posted in Annulment

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A common belief is that a spouse may obtain a quick annulment of a marriage versus an actual divorce if they have been married for less than six months. While that may be the case elsewhere, it is not the case in the State of Maryland.  

 

In Maryland, an annulment can only be granted when a marriage is invalid because it is void or voidable; never due to the length of time, or lack thereof, that the parties resided together as husband and wife. The grounds for an annulment, making the marriage void or voidable, arise before the date of the actual marriage ceremony. 

 

A void marriage is never valid, and a party cannot waive the grounds that make the marriage void because these grounds implicate public policy concerns. Not only can a party to the marriage file for an annulment of this marriage, but so can a third party. 

 A marriage is void if, at the time of the marriage ceremony:  

  • Either party was legally married to someone else; or 
  • The partners are related by birth or marriage within an impermissible degree of relationship. In Maryland, you may not marry your grandparent, parent, child, sibling, grandchild, grandparent’s spouse, spouse’s grandparent, parent’s sibling, stepparent, spouse’s parent, spouse’s child, child’s spouse, grandchild’s spouse, spouse’s grandchild, or sibling’s child. 

 

The primary distinction between void and voidable marriages is whether the parties could have established a valid marriage with proper consent by both parties. A marriage is void if, even with legally effective consent by both parties, the parties could not have established a lawful marriage. A marriage is voidable if the parties could have established a lawful marriage had their consent to the marriage been legally effective. See Morris v. Goodwin, 230 Md. App. 395, 404 (2016). 

 

A voidable marriage is valid until declared invalid by a court. Unlike a void marriage, the grounds that make the marriage voidable are waivable and can only be raised by a party to the marriage.  

 

A marriage is voidable if, at the time of the marriage ceremony: 

  • One of the parties lacked the capacity to marry. This could be due to a mental illness, temporary lack of capacity, or one of the parties not being of legal age to marry; or 
  • A party’s consent to the marriage was improperly obtained, such as by fraud, duress, or undue influence.  

 

Recently, we had a case where we obtained an annulment for a client because her husband was still married to his first wife. She thought her “husband” was divorced and in fact, so did he, believing that he had obtained a divorce in another country over ten years ago. Needless to say, her “husband” was served with a Complaint for Absolute Divorce from his first wife, after being “married” to his second wife (our client) for four years. Ultimately, the Mexican divorce he thought he had been granted over ten years ago was not obtained in accordance with the Laws of the State of Maryland and he was still legally married to his first wife. In that situation, our client’s marriage was annulled because the marriage was never valid from the beginning—it was void. 

 

Read More: Will a Foreign Divorce be Recognized as a Valid Divorce in the State of Maryland? 

In Maryland, if the court does grant an annulment, the court can award spousal support and child support, as well as divide property (see Section 8-202 of the Family Law Article, Annotated Code of Maryland) and decide custody of the children, as the court could in a divorce proceeding. 

 

In practice, an annulment can be hard to achieve, and if the Judge denies your request, then a divorce proceeding is your next option. An experienced family law attorney will be able to assist you in deciding the best avenue to pursue. 

 

For more information regarding annulments and divorce in Maryland, contact the Family Law Group at Silverman Thompson  

 

 

Monica L. Scherer, Esq. 

mscherer@silvermanthompson.com 

(410) 385-2225 

  

Joseph S. Stephan, Esq. 

jstephan@silvermanthompson.com 

(410) 385-2225 

  

Erin D. Brooks, Esq. 

ebrooks@silvermanthompson.com 

(410) 385-2225 

 

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