In the state of Colorado, the Court can issue a Decree Declaring the Invalidity of a Marriage. This is long name for what most people call getting an “annulment”.
What getting my marriage declared as invalid mean?
If the Court declares a marriage invalid, on paper, it is as if the marriage never happened. If your marriage is not “valid”, it means that you do not have to go through the divorce process to end the marriage by decree, because the Court has found that you were not actually married in the first place.
Is getting my marriage annulled easier than getting a divorce?
In short, No. In fact, it can be more expensive and time-consuming, if one person believes that the marriage was valid and that it should not be annulled.
If someone contests the invalidity of the marriage (taking the position that it was a valid marriage), then the Court will first have a hearing on the question of whether the marriage was or was not valid to begin with.
Whether the Court finds that the marriage was valid or invalid, parties will have to go through the exact same procedure for either a divorce or an annulment. You will have to exchange financial disclosures; you will have to negotiate a separation agreement or attend mediation. If you are not able to reach a separation agreement or agree that the marriage should be declared invalid, you can ultimately end up in front of a judge who will make a ruling regarding the division of property.
How do I get my marriage annulled?
You must first file a Petition for Declaration of Invalidity of Marriage. Then you must be able to show the Court that your marriage is not a valid marriage. A marriage can be considered invalid for one of several very specific reasons.
Mental capacity: If you or your spouse did not have mental capacity to consent to the marriage. The lack of capacity can result either from findings mental health issues or capacity limitations, or if you or your spouse were under the influence of alcohol or drugs and could not consent to the marriage.
Consummation: If you and your spouse lacked the physical ability to consummate the marriage by sexual intercourse and the other party did not know at the time of the marriage of their spouse’s inability to consummate the marriage. This does not mean that failure to consummate the marriage or a lack of intimacy automatically enables you to annul your marriage.
Age: Either you or your spouse were under the age of eighteen at the time of marriage.
Fraud: Either you or your spouse relied on either a fraudulent act or representation. The fraud must go to the “essence of the marriage.” Examples of fraud can include marrying for a visa or a claimed illness. Although portrayed on tv as a common reason for annulment, “they married me just for my money” is extremely difficult to prove to the court without a proof of financial motive.
Jest or Dare: Either you or your spouse entered into the marriage as jest or dare.
Duress: Either you or your spouse entered into the marriage while under duress (i.e. either of you felt that you had no option other than to enter into the marriage or else something bad would happen).
Prohibited by law:
Either you or spouse are still married to someone else and the divorce has not been finalized. Examples of this are:
Marriage between brothers and sisters, either half or whole blood.
Marriage between an Aunt and her niece or nephew or marriage between and Uncle
and his niece or nephew.
Is there a deadline to file for an annulment?
Yes, deadlines exist for filing a Petition for the Declaration of Invalidity, depending on the reasons for the invalidity of the marriage.
Why would I pursue an annulment rather than a divorce?
People pursue an annulment versus a divorce for any number of reasons, including religious reasons, matters of principal, or, as a method of trying to protect assets from the other spouse (although as a court of equity, the court is still bound by the property rights of spouses, maintenance, and support of and the allocation of parental responsibilities with respect to children, even when a marriage has been found to be invalid).
The attorneys at GEM Family Law can assist you in determining how to best move forward with ending your marriage. The issue of invalidating a marriage is extremely complex and generally requires seasoned legal counsel. Our team of attorneys is ready and able to assist you. Call 303-317-3239 to schedule your free consultation today.
Authored by: Sarah Wolter, Esq., Senior Associate Attorney