Many people assume that marriage can only end in either divorce or death. However, in Texas, a couple can also legally separate through a marriage annulment. Annulments are not as well-known as divorce, as they are only an option for marriages in Texas that were never valid nor legal. In other words, an annulment makes it as if the marriage never legally existed in the first place. A judge will decide whether there are grounds for an annulment or whether the couple is instead required to go through the process of divorce.
For people navigating these types of separations, the process can seem complicated. However, the entire annulment process is governed by Texas annulment laws. In this article, we look at these laws in more detail and answer all there is to know about how to get an annulment in Texas.
What is an Annulment?
An annulment is a form of legal separation that a judge grants to married couples whose marriage is deemed invalid. An “invalid marriage” refers to any marriage that was entered into under false pretenses. The legal proceedings of the annulment essentially make it as if the invalid marriage never occurred in the first place. After an annulment, both spouses will be single with no legal ties to the other person. Therefore, any couples that are not in a valid marriage can make a petition to the courts and start researching how to file for an annulment in Texas.
Divorce vs. Annulment: What’s the Difference?
In Texas, a divorce and an annulment are separate legal proceedings. Both are a legal form of separation in which two spouses split. However, when going through the process of divorce, courts recognize the initial marriage as legal and valid. While this marriage did legally exist at one point, following the divorce proceedings, it has now legally ended. On the contrary, a marriage annulment in Texas refers to the termination of a marriage that was never legally valid to begin with.
Grounds for an Annulment in Texas
Whether the judge decides that a marriage is annulled or not depends on the specifics of the marriage in question. To pursue an annulment, the marriage must be deemed invalid. According to the Texas family code, below are all the possible grounds under which a marriage may be eligible for an annulment:
- Incest: If after the marriage it has been discovered that the two spouses are blood relatives, the marriage is considered invalid on the grounds of incest. To be considered as an incest relationship, the spouses’ relation must be closer than first cousins, such as a parent (mother or father), sibling (brother or sister), aunt, or uncle.
- Bigamy: If one or both of the spouses are already in legally binding marriages, this is considered bigamy. It is illegal for anyone to be in two marriages at once in Texas, thus the second marriage is invalid and can be annulled. Alternatively, the second marriage can become valid if the prior marriage is dissolved.
- Under the Influence: If it can be proven that one of the spouses was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time the marriage took place, it may be considered invalid. This can usually only be used as grounds for an annulment if the intoxicated spouse has not voluntarily cohabited with their partner since the effects of the drugs/alcohol have worn off.
- Under Age: According to Texas law, the legal age for marriage without parental consent or a court order is eighteen. If it is found that a spouse enters a marriage when they are under age, the marriage is deemed invalid and offers grounds for an annulment. In these cases, the parent or guardian can file for an annulment on the minor’s behalf.
- Impotence: When one member of the couple is impotent and unable to have sex but conceals this from their new partner until after the marriage has taken place, this is deemed as an invalid marriage under Texas laws. For this to stand as grounds for an annulment, the inability to have sexual intercourse must be permanent.
- Mental Illness: Physical or mental reasons can sometimes be used as grounds for an annulment of a marriage in this state. For example, if mental illness caused one spouse to lack the capacity to either (1) choose to enter the marriage voluntarily or (2) understand what marriage is, the couple may be able to pursue annulment.
- Force or Duress: If one spouse has been coerced into the marriage by force or duress, rather than entering it voluntarily, Texas law considers these examples as invalid marriages as long as the force or duress continued up until the time of the wedding ceremony.
- Fraud: Cases of fraud include where one spouse lies about something essential to the marriage, and also provide grounds for an annulment. Examples could include a prior concealed divorce, purposefully hiding information on his or her sterility, concealing an existing pregnancy, or refusing to have children despite agreeing previously to the contrary.
- Waiting Period Violation: In the state of Texas, there is a mandatory waiting period of 72 hours between the issuing of a marriage license and the wedding itself. If there has been a violation of this waiting period and the couple married before the 72 hours passed, it can be used as grounds for annulling a marriage.
How Do I Get an Annulment in Texas?
To get an annulment in Texas, the first step is to file a petition with the courts. This legal petition document is called “A Suit to Declare Void the Marriage of [Petitioner] and [Responder]”. The person filing for the annulment is the petitioner, while their spouse is the responder. This document needs to be filed in the district in which the spouses live, and the appropriate forms can usually be found by contacting the county clerk’s office. Doing so will kick start the annulment process and the courts will begin to look over the application documents.
It is important to note that it is not possible for any spouse to file a petition for a marriage annulment in Texas. Instead, an annulment can only be filed in the state if either:
- The spouses were married in the state of Texas;
- One or both of the spouses live in Texas and have lived there for at least 90 days.
The main purpose of the annulment petitions is to provide the courts with the necessary information regarding the lawsuit. Therefore, the spouse filing for the annulment needs to provide information such as the full names of both spouses and any children, the date that the marriage took place, and the date on which the married couple stopped living together. Information on where both spouses both live and whether the courts need to divide the property upon separation also needs to be stated. Where children are involved, the annulment petitions are where the petitioner can ask for help from the courts in determining decisions on child custody, visitation rights, and child support payments as well.
After the petition has been filed and picked up by the courts, a decision will usually be met within a few weeks. The spouse filing the annulment can insist on a jury trial if the outcome is not in their favor.
Marriage and domestic partnerships have different rights under the law; married couples have rights that domestic partnerships do not...
How Long Do You Have to Annul a Marriage?
Spouses seeking an annulment in Texas need to be aware of the annulment time limit. According to state law, the annulment petition must be filed within 30 days of the marriage. If the petition is signed after this – even in cases where there are clear grounds for the judge to grant an annulment – the couple will need to go through a divorce instead. In these cases, it is best to contact a divorce attorney to discuss the available options.
What is the Cost of an Annulment in Texas?
The procedure is not free. Any spouse that files a petition for an annulment with the courts will be required to pay filing fees. These are standard fees charged by government bodies to cover the cost of staff reviewing and storing the documents. In Texas, the filing fee is approximately $300.
On top of filing fees there are legal fees. In order to keep these costs down, many spouses may choose to file to annul a marriage without seeking legal advice. However, we always recommend appointing a law firm with experience in working cases in Texas annulment law. These experts can help ensure the paperwork is completed correctly and take the pressure off of the petitioner at this stressful time. The cost of an attorney will vary greatly depending on the experience of the law firm but commonly the legal fees for an annulment will amount to at least $1,000. A lawyer referral service may be useful in helping spouses connect with local attorneys to work their case.
An annulment in Texas refers to the voiding of a marriage that was never valid to begin with. According to Texas annulment laws, several situations could qualify a married couple for an annulment, including incest, bigamy, intoxication, mental illness, fraud, and duress. It is ultimately the judge’s decision whether or not a marriage qualifies for an annulment. If granted, it will be as if the marriage never legally existed.