Annulment or Divorce?
An annulment is different than a divorce. Rather than ending a marriage, it treats the marriage as if it never happened. With an annulment there isn’t any community property to divide. An annulment voids the marriage.
There are several reasons why you might look to obtain an annulment rather than a divorce; 1) You object to divorce because of religious beliefs, 2) You want to avoid the stigma of being “divorced” or having a divorce on your record, 3) You think an annulment is cheaper or takes less time than a divorce, or 4) You do not want to divide property or take on your spouse’s debts. But, annulments are not automatically granted by the court. There are requirements for an annulment.
Nevada has two jurisdictional rules before allowing you to petition for annulment; 1) At least one of the parties must be a resident of Nevada, 2) Or the marriage took place in Las Vegas. To qualify as a resident you must physically live in Las Vegas, and lived in Nevada for at least the past 6 weeks. If the marriage occurred in Nevada, there is no residency requirement. Las Vegas courts can void any marriage performed in their county, regardless of where either of you live.
Requests for annulments need to show special circumstances exist. Grounds for annulment are detailed in Nevada law, NRS Chapter 125 – Dissolution of Marriage. Most grounds are easy to understand, and involve some form of deceit or fraud.
Prohibited – You are blood relatives, or one of you is still married to someone else. If you are married you cannot get married to someone else without divorcing the first spouse. We have seen past divorces which were never finalized causing more than one annulment. Marrying your cousin, niece or other close relative is not allowed. This is Las Vegas, not Virginia.
Misunderstanding – The marriage occurred when one party lacked full understanding due to intoxication, medications, or stress. In Las Vegas you have plenty of night clubs, bars and wedding chapels. It’s why Las Vegas is the capital of marriages on weekends and annulment central on Monday morning.
Underage – Being under the age of 18 at time of marriage and lacking parental consent could be grounds for annulment. If you were underage at the time of marriage, but stayed married after you turned 18 you may have validated the marriage.
Fraud or Deceit – Not disclosing previous marriages, or marrying to obtain U.S. citizenship are other examples of fraud. Lying about your criminal history, debt obligations to IRS, bankruptcy, drug additions, or sexual preference are common examples of deceit. Both fraud and deceit can give you grounds for an annulment.
Contract Breach – A contract is when one person make a promise in return for another person doing something. Marriage is a social contract. You and your spouse may have made promises about having children or changing religions. Would you have gotten married if they hadn’t made these promises? If they change their mind, you could have possible grounds for an annulment.
As you see, most qualifying reasons to obtain an annulment involve some type of fraud, deception, or mistake. A marriage is based on honesty and trust, and when these do not exist or deliberately ignored, the Nevada law offers the innocent victim a path for erasing the mistake.
Bear in mind, any situation where fraud, misrepresentation or deceit is involved, the court will want to see some proof. You may be required to obtain verification in writing, submit evidence, or get an affidavit from another person. A Las Vegas divorce attorney can help you find the evidence you need before the court’s prove-up hearing.
Time is the killer for most claims of annulment. Annulment requests should generally be made shortly after a marriage occurs. If you wait too long the court may feel the deceit or fraud was probably know about and accepted. In cases where a couple have been together for six months or longer, the grounds for annulment began to erode. The longer the marriage, the more likely the court denies an annulment.
The difference between an annulment and a divorce is an annulment voids the marriage. With an annulment the court views the marriages as never happening and will not divide property, divide debts, nor award alimony.
If an annulment is not granted you may still file for a divorce. Either spouse could argue they want a divorce instead of an annulment or the court could rule an annulment is not proper. With the annulment denied the standard divorce process is required. If the case is changed to a divorce the court would hold hearings on assets, debts and alimony.
Annulments are cheaper than divorces. There are less hearings. The court may not even require a meeting. Less hearings typically means less costs.