We have touched briefly on the subject of annulment once before on this blog, but there is enough confusion about the topic that we feel it is worth another look. At least once each week our office gets a call for someone interested in a divorce or annulment. In Tennessee, we have to explain, an annulment is a highly specific form of marital dissolution.
In order to be eligible for an annulment in Tennessee, the marriage must have been void due to public policy or voidable at the discretion of the “victim” party. A marriage void due to public policy is generally one of three situations: a homosexual marriage, an incestuous marriage, or a bigamous marriage. A marriage voidable at the discretion of the “victim” party is usually voidable because consent to marriage was not properly available. This can arise due to an underage party, duress, mistake, or lack of capacity to contract. A marriage can also be voidable due to impotence in some situations, or if the woman becomes pregnant by a man other than her husband without her husband’s knowledge.
A void marriage is treated by the state of Tennessee as if it had never occurred, and is thus eligible for annulment. A voidable marriage is treated by the state of Tennessee as if it had occurred, but should not have and can be eliminated legally as if it had never occurred. Annulment is, then, not so much a form of ending a marriage but a method of giving official and legal recognition of a false marriage.
In most situations, parties to a divorce ask for an annulment because they regret the decision to marry. If that decision was made knowingly by two non-related single adults of opposite gender with the capacity to contract, an annulment is probably not available. A divorce is certainly available, however.
If you are in a marriage that is not valid or is not working out well, an annulment or divorce may be the correct answer. You should consult an attorney in your area to discuss your options. For more information on annulments, divorce, and other family law issues, click here.