Annulment is a relatively rare special action that establishes that your marriage never existed. If a court finds the facts necessary to grant an annulment it is as if you and your spouse were never married. The factors necessary to prove an annulment are difficult to meet and therefore courts are reluctant to grant an annulment and may grant a divorce instead.
An annulment must be sought in the state where the parties live, not where they were married. Although it is not necessary to have lived in the state for a specific period, an action for annulment should be filed within a reasonable time after the grounds are known to the party seeking the decree.
Annulments are not granted without clear proof that the marriage is invalid. The court’s decision to annul a marriage means that no marriage came into being; however, the court decree will protect the property rights of the parties and provide for the support of the children. The decree may also award alimony. Furthermore, children are not made illegitimate by the granting of an annulment.
A void marriage is always invalid. Either of the parties to the marriage or a third person can bring an action to declare the marriage void at any time. A marriage is void if at the time of the ceremony:
- Either party was legally married to someone else;
- The parties are related by birth or marriage within impermissible degrees, such as parents, grandparents, children, or grandchildren or their spouse or spouse’s children, a brother or sister or their children, an aunt or uncle, a stepparent or step-child, or a spouse’s parent, grandparent, or grandchild; or,
- Either party was legally insane or otherwise mentally incompetent to enter the contract.
A voidable marriage is valid until a court declares it to be invalid, and only the victimized party may challenge the validity of the marriage. How long the couple has been married is immaterial. However, the marriage cannot be annulled if the parties continue to live together after the reason for the marriage being voidable no longer exists. A marriage is voidable if at the time of the ceremony:
- Either party was under the age of 18, except:
- The underage party was at least 16 years of age with parental consent; or
- The underage party had parental consent and a physician’s certification of pregnancy
- Either party was physically incapable of intercourse;
- Consent was procured by fraud, duress or force;
- Either party lacked understanding to consent; or,
- The marriage ceremony was performed by someone without legal authority to perform it.
The following books may be available at a public Circuit Court Law Library.
Fader's Maryland Family Law. LexisNexis (5th ed. 2011), § 3-3.
Family Law Manual, Maryland. Hanford Pub. Co. (1984, with 2012 supp.) MISC 102.
Maryland Divorce and Separation Law. MICPEL (9th ed. 2009), pp. 33-34
Maryland Domestic Relations Forms with Practice Commentary. LexisNexis (with 2012 supp.), Ch. 10.