There are two basic ways to dissolve a marriage in Alabama: divorces and annulments. Although media coverage of divorces is widespread, particularly with regard to celebrity couples, much less coverage is granted to annulments. The effect of an annulment is to declare an invalid marriage as having been void from inception. As opposed to traditional divorce situations, where grounds must be established as having taken place during the marriage, an annulment requires there to have been some extenuating circumstance at the inception of the marriage that rendered it ineffective. Additionally, there are other marriages that may be considered “voidable” rather than void at inception, and court action would have to be taken in order to have such a marriage declared voided.
Generally, fraud that is utilized to induce a marriage or to motivate a party to participate in a marriage may render such a marriage voidable. The prototypical “shotgun wedding” is a classic example of this. If a party to a wedding is improperly motivated to participate under threat of violence or death, otherwise termed “duress”, then a valid argument could be made in favor of an annulment.
There are other basic scenarios that lend themselves to a definite establishment of grounds for annulment. In Alabama, one may marry at age 14, provided they have parental consent, but if a person is married at an age younger than 14, that marriage is subject to annulment. If a party to a marriage is discovered to have been a party to a previous marriage that was never dissolved, the existence of that previously undissolved marriage establishes grounds for annulment. There are other arguments for voiding a voidable marriage that may be made under the appropriate circumstances: if a woman, pregnant with another man’s child, tells her boyfriend that the child is his, and thus convinces him to marry her so that the child is born to married parents, an argument could be made that annulment is appropriate. If a man has had homosexual contact with another man during the courtship and fails to disclose this to his bride before marrying her, the bride could potentially make a valid case for annulment.
As stated previously, divorces and annulments are different in many ways, but one of the ways in which it is different is that a divorce terminates a marriage as of the date of divorce, whereas an annulment declares that what was thought to have been a valid marriage was never a valid marriage at all. Annulments are particularly attractive to religious people in religious traditions that frown on divorce, simply because in an annulment, a marriage is not considered to have been dissolved. If any of the above scenarios are similar to your current marital situation, an annulment consultation may be right for you. Please contact our office today to schedule a time to meet with us to talk about your case.