Annulment is a relatively rare special action establishing that your marriage never existed. An annulment erases the marital union entirely as if you and your spouse were never married. The factors necessary to prove an annulment are difficult to prove. Maryland courts are reluctant to grant an annulment and may grant a divorce instead.
In Maryland, you may file for an annulment in the county you reside in or in the county where the marriage ceremony took place.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 6-202
An action for annulment should be filed within a reasonable time after the grounds are known to the party seeking the decree.
The party seeking an annulment must prove that the marriage was invalid. The proof must be clear and satisfactory, a higher burden than in most civil cases. If the court grants an annulment, however, the court decree will protect the parties' property rights and provide for the support of any children. The decree may also award alimony. Furthermore, children are not made illegitimate by the granting of an annulment.
Grounds for Annulment
A marriage may be annulled if it is void or voidable. Void means the law prohibits the marriage from ever existing. A voidable marriage has certain defects that permit the marriage to be attacked directly.
Void: A marriage is considered void if, at the time of the ceremony:
- Bigamy: Either party was legally married to someone else; or,
- Incest: The parties are related by birth or marriage within impermissible degrees of consanguinity, 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 stepchild, or a spouse’s parent, grandparent, or grandchild.
A marriage that is deemed void is always considered invalid. At any time, either individual involved in the marriage, or a third party, can initiate legal proceedings to declare the marriage void.
Voidable: A voidable marriage remains legally valid until a court declares it invalid. Only the party who has been victimized in some way has the right to challenge the validity of the marriage.
A marriage is voidable if at the time of the ceremony:
- Consent was obtained by:
- Undue influence; or,
- Incapacity: Either party lacked the mental capacity to fully comprehend and consent to the marriage contract.
The duration of the marriage is irrelevant in determining its voidable status. However, suppose the couple continues to live together after the reason for the marriage being voidable no longer exists. In that case, the marriage cannot be annulled.