An annulment is not at all the same thing as a divorce. In a divorce, you divide property and determine spousal support. The purpose is to help someone stable as they transition into singledom.
Divorce ends a marriage. Effectively, you are breaking up a legal family, and the law wants to make sure everyone is protected.
Annulment doesn’t end a marriage. It nullifies the marriage, erasing it from record. Essentially, annulment assumes that the marriage should not have happened in the first place.
You need a good reason to annul a marriage. It’s not as simple as two people who no longer wish to be married.
Examples of why you can annul a marriage include:
- One spouse was already legally married.
- One spouse was coerced into the marriage.
- One spouse was underage at the time of the marriage.
- One spouse could not consent to the marriage at the time.
- One spouse committed some form of fraud, tricking the other person into the marriage.
Since the marriage wasn’t valid to begin with, the state doesn’t assume it’s breaking up a family. It assumes that it must invalidate the marriage and treat the former spouses as individuals. Therefore, it doesn’t concern itself with support or property division.
Even annulled marriages, however, can last quite a while, and couples can accumulate property during that time.
Unlike a divorce, there is not a consistent set of rules for handling property in an annulment. Courts can look at each annulment on a case-by-case basis and go from there. Here are some potential ways a court could distribute property in an annulment.
Give Property to the Purchaser
In a legally valid marriage, spouses own all marital property equally. Generally, this includes any property that either party purchased during the marriage.
An annulment treats the marriage as if it never took place. Therefore, there is no marital property to divide.
One way to handle this conundrum is to simply give property to whoever bought it. Doing so could include collecting receipts, checking the same on a lease, and so on.
Break Up Joint Accounts
If any jointly owned property or account exists, the court can break it up. It can treat these assets the same way it would for a business that’s breaking apart. Depending on the asset, spouses could receive a percentage of ownership, buy out one another’s interests, and so on.
Compensate the Injured Parties
Many annulments are the result of deceit. A spouse lies about their age, marital status, identity, and so on. Where there is deceit, there is a victim.
Family courts are free to operate more like civil courts. They can use assets to compensate someone for their troubles. A court could be free to force someone to turn over property to their spouse for tricking them into an invalid marriage.
Our firm is here to help if you need an annulment. Set up an appointment with The Law Offices of Mark R. Hinshaw, PLC today by calling (515) 200-7571 or contacting us online.