Steps to Getting an Annulment in Pennsylvania
An annulment is different from a divorce. Where a divorce ends a marriage, an annulment reaches back and erases the marriage from ever having existed. An annulment is only available for specific reasons, usually involving a marriage that was not legally formed in the first place, or had flaws that call its validity into question.
If you are considering an annulment or have already decided you want your marriage annulled, you may be wondering how the process works. Talk to an attorney for help selecting the proper grounds for an annulment and checking that your marriage would be eligible for annulment. An attorney can also file your annulment for you and guide you through the process and its legal effects in other areas of your life. The divorce lawyers at the Sadek and Cooper Law Offices offer free consultations.
Am I Eligible for an Annulment?
Annulments are usually granted only for marriages that were illegal in the first place, or marriages that have something strange about them that makes them nearly illegal. The first category, illegal marriages, are called “void marriages” under 23 Pa.C.S. § 3303. These are marriages where one spouse was already married, the parties turned out to be related, one party could not legally consent to marriage, or a party to a common-law marriage was under 18 years old. These conditions are rare, but do occur.
Alternatively, some marriages are legal, but have elements that call into question the validity of the marriage. These are called “voidable marriages” under 23 Pa.C.S. § 3304. These include marriages where a party was under 16, was 16 or 17 years old, was drunk or drugged during the ceremony, turns out to be impotent, or was forced into the marriage. These marriages could legally continue if both parties want them to. However, Pennsylvania law considers these elements to be immoral or unethical and gives parties a chance to cancel the marriage through annulment.
Some annulment grounds have time limits, especially for “voidable marriages” under § 3305. For instance, for a marriage where the parties were 16 or 17 years old, or for a marriage where a party was drunk or drugged, there is a 60-day time limit to file. If you wait too long, the marriage can no longer be annulled on those grounds.
Failing to meet the grounds for an annulment or missing the time limits for filing may mean you need to turn to divorce to end the marriage, rather than annulment.
What is the Process for Filing for an Annulment in PA?
Either party can file for annulment under 23 Pa.C.S. § 3303, whether the marriage is “void” or “voidable.” The process for filing simply requires submitting a request with your local courthouse to annul the marriage. The formatting and filing procedures might be complicated in some towns, so always speak to an attorney before filing anything with a court. In the case of a common law marriage with someone under 18 years old, the minor’s parent or guardian can file on behalf of the minor – but common law marriages after 2005 are not allowed anyway. While either party can file regardless of whether the marriage is “void” or “voidable,” there are specific rules for these.
A “void marriage” could be declared invalid and annulled as part of another proceeding. This means that if the issue of whether the spouses are legally married comes up in another legal matter or hearing, the judge may be able to annul that marriage on the spot. This can help speed along other proceedings where the issue of whether or not the couple is married is involved. Since these marriages are not legally allowed, they may sometimes be legally considered invalid even before the annulment is granted.
A “voidable marriage,” on the other hand, can only be annulled in an annulment proceeding. That means the parties need to specifically file for annulment in order to have a voidable marriage annulled. Additionally, until the annulment is finalized and the marriage is declared invalid, the parties are legally treated as though they are married.
Filing for an annulment may be quicker and easier than some forms of divorce, but that is not always the case. It is important to speak with an attorney about the legal consequences of a divorce as opposed to an annulment. An attorney can help you decide which course to pursue, file your paperwork, and handle the negotiations with your spouse.
Pennsylvania Divorce and Annulment Attorney
The lawyers at the Sadek and Cooper Law Offices help married people throughout the Philadelphia area get annulments and divorces. If you are considering annulment or are ready to file, take your case to our family law attorneys. Let us file the paperwork, handle your hearings, and help make sure you get the divorce or annulment you want. Call 215-814-0395 today for a free consultation.