Ending a marriage is a challenging process. Depending on the facts of your case, you may be able to obtain an annulment. Due to the complex laws surrounding annulments in the state of Pennsylvania, representation by an experienced lawyer is essential to navigating the process of annulling your marriage.
In this article, the knowledgeable family law attorneys at Schwartz, Fox, & Saltzman provide an overview of the laws regarding annulments in Pennsylvania.
What is Marriage Annulment in Pennsylvania?
Under §3303 of the Divorce Code, annulment is a legal process which declares a marriage invalid. This means a formal or common law marriage is declared void ab initio, i.e., treated as if it never occurred. If you are considering an annulment in Pennsylvania, it is important to understand the legal process and requirements involved.
Is Annulment the Same as a Divorce in PA?
No, an annulment is not the same as a divorce. While both annulment and divorce involve ending a formal or common law marriage, an annulment proceeding differs from divorce in that it treats the marriage as if it never existed. Under Pennsylvania law, a divorce terminates a marriage while recognizing its validity.
What Qualifies for an Annulment in PA?
In Pennsylvania, annulment is a legal remedy which can be pursued in certain limited circumstances where a marriage is deemed invalid or voidable. Not all marriages can be annulled in Pennsylvania. To qualify for an annulment, certain criteria must be met.
Grounds for Annulling a Marriage in Pennsylvania
Unlike an uncontested divorce, there are specific grounds for annulling a marriage in Pennsylvania. These include situations where one or both parties lacked the legal capacity to consent to the marriage or situations in which the marriage itself was illegal. Due to the limited grounds for annulment, it is important to consult with a Philadelphia family law attorney to determine whether your situation qualifies for this legal remedy.
Impaired Mental State in One or Both Parties
In the context of an annulment, an impaired mental state has several meanings. Specifically, it means one or both parties entered into the marriage under duress or where one spouse entered the marriage while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Additional grounds for annulment include impairment which means a person entered a marriage based on fraud or false information.
One or Both Spouses Couldn’t Give Legal Consent
According to §3304(a)(4), a marriage can be annulled if one or both spouses are under the age of 18. This is because minors are deemed unable to provide legal consent and, instead, must obtain their parent’s permission. Under Pennsylvania Law, the minor, their guardian, or their parents can move to have the marriage declared void.
Marriage was Illegal
Illegal marriages are prohibited by law. Under §3304(a)(1), a marriage is illegal and void if either spouse is legally married to another individual. Additionally, a marriage is unlawful and void under §3304(a)(2) if the spouses are too closely related, e.g., siblings, first cousins, etc.
Marriage was Invalid from the Start
There are certain circumstances in which the law treats a marriage being invalid. Under §3304(a)(1), a marriage can be declared invalid if one spouse was unable to consent “by reason of insanity or serious mental disorder or otherwise lacked capacity to consent or did not intend to consent to the marriage.” Additionally, an annulment can be obtained if one spouse cannot consummate the marriage due to an incurable condition, i.e., physically unable to perform sexual intercourse due to being incurably impotent.
Is Annulment Harder to Get than a Divorce?
Yes, it is more difficult to obtain an annulment. Stated simply, all marriages can be terminated via divorce, while only certain formal and common law marriages can be annulled. This is because the specific rules for an annulment are more strict.
Marriage Annulment & Child Custody & Support
While an annulment voids a marriage, it does not affect child custody or support issues. A child born in a marriage which is later annulled is not then declared as being illegitimate. Instead, a marriage annulled in Pennsylvania creates a presumption of a child’s paternity.
Annulment & Voidable Marriages
Voidable marriages are presumptively valid. In a voidable marriage, the parties can waive the grounds, which can dissolve a voidable marriage via an annulment action. The grounds surrounding void marriages cannot be waived by the parties, e.g., incest, bigamy, etc., and can never be legally recognized.
Talk with an Experienced Divorce Attorney for Assistance
If you are considering an annulment, it is important to consult with an experienced divorce attorney who can guide you through the process. At Schwartz, Fox, & Saltzman, our Philadelphia divorce lawyers have successfully litigated divorce and annulment matters for over 30 years. To learn more about our services, contact us today!
Summary of How Annulment Works in PA Marriages
Annulment is the legal process of declaring a marriage as if it never existed. In Pennsylvania, annulment is only available for marriages which meet specific criteria. As the process is generally more difficult than obtaining a divorce, representation by an experienced Philadelphia divorce attorney is essential.