Grounds for Annulment in Pennsylvania
Sometimes people get married, but soon after wish they could undo the entire thing. Often, people consider divorce when they have been married for some time, but annulment is an excellent option for those who have only been married a short time and want to end the marriage. Rather than simply ending the marriage like a divorce, an annulment reaches back and erases the marriage’s existence from the start.
Most of the grounds for annulment in Pennsylvania are there to end marriages that should never have begun in the first place. This includes marriages that legally should not have occurred, as well as marriages that people would generally reconsider. Annulment is not always simpler nor cheaper than divorce, so talk to an attorney about what your best option is. The family lawyers at the Sadek and Cooper Law Offices help husbands and wives in Pennsylvania understand their choices and get the outcome they want for their divorces and annulments.
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PA Void Marriages
For marriages that legally should never have occurred, annulment can end the marriage and set the parties back to their legal states as if the marriage never happened. These grounds for annulment are called “void marriages” under 23 Pa.C.S. § 3304, since they are technically illegal marriages. The following are all grounds for annulment based on a void marriage:
- Either party was already married before the marriage began – since it is illegal to be married to two people at the same time, the second marriage is void.
- The parties are related within two degrees of consanguinity – if the couple later discovers they are twins separated at birth or cousins they did not know about, the marriage would be illegal.
- Either party could not consent to the marriage – if either party was mentally ill, insane, or otherwise incapable of consenting to the marriage, but the marriage continued anyway, the marriage is void.
- If either party was under 18, and the marriage was a common-law marriage – this is unlikely to occur, since Pennsylvania stopped common-law marriages after January 1, 2005.
Many of these scenarios may sound like something out of a soap opera or a made-for-TV movie, but they do occur. Obviously, finding out that your spouse was already married or is related to you can be a huge shock. Our lawyers are available to help guide you through the process of getting an annulment and moving on with your lives.
Keep in mind that these marriages are called “void marriages” because they are not legally binding under Pennsylvania law. That means that, in the eyes of the law, the marriage never occurred in the first place and does not count. This can have serious effects for either spouse’s inheritance, child custody orders, taxes, and other things that depend on your legal status being “married.”
PA Voidable Marriages
These marriages are not automatically void like the marriages above. Instead, these marriages are legal and may continue if both spouses wish to stay married, but some feature about the marriage is strange. Usually, these features deal with traditionally immoral or unethical concerns. Since individuals might not have the same morals and ethics that Pennsylvania lawmakers do, these marriages are not automatically erased like void marriages. Instead, they are “voidable marriages.” This means that the parties could choose, through annulment, to erase the marriage based on the following reasons listed in 23 Pa.C.S. § 3305:
- Either party was under 16 at the time of marriage – this is not voidable if a court specifically authorized the marriage.
- Either party was 16 or 17 years old – these marriages can be annulled within 60 days of the marriage. If the party has already turned 18 and re-affirmed the marriage, it cannot be annulled on these grounds.
- Either party was drunk or drugged during the ceremony – the parties have 60 days to seek an annulment if they were under the effects of drugs or alcohol when they said, “I do.”
- Impotence – if either party is unable to reproduce and their spouse did not find out until after the marriage, the marriage is voidable.
- Either party forced the other into the marriage by fraud, duress, coercion or force – if this happened, seek advice from an attorney immediately. You may have other legal options to protect yourself from abuse and further harm.
Every relationship is different, and some people may accept these issues in their marriage. Still, for the many cases where these are serious issues, the law allows the parties to choose annulment.
Pennsylvania Annulment Attorneys
If you are considering seeking an annulment, talk to an attorney. Depending on the grounds for annulment involved in your case, you may have strict deadlines to meet. Throughout the greater Philadelphia area, the divorce lawyers at the Sadek and Cooper Law Offices offer free consultations for new divorce clients. Call 215-814-0395 today for your free, confidential consultation.