Annulment and divorce are two different things. When you get an annulment, it is as if the marriage never existed.
An annulment nullifies the marriage contract and makes the marriage void. Divorce, on the other hand, says the couple was legally married and ended up separating.
If you entered into a non-covenant marriage in Arizona, you can petition the court for a divorce without cause.
When petitioning the court for an annulment, you must prove that the marriage was unlawful or otherwise voidable.
What is a Valid Marriage in Arizona?
Only unlawful or otherwise voidable marriages have the legal premise for annulment.
In Arizona, marriage is only lawful when two people enter into the marriage with intent and comply with Arizona laws.
To enter into a valid marriage, couples must:
- Be 18 years of age or older
- Be of sound mind and not under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Be unrelated (as commonly defined/considered)
- Apply for a marriage license, sign the appropriate affidavit under oath and solemnize the marriage with someone authorized under the law.
If you did not adhere to all of the above laws when wedding, your marriage may be unlawful and may be eligible for annulment.
There are a few exceptions to the above requirements as well as other situations where annulment might be possible so it is a good idea to consult with an experienced family law attorney if you are considering this path.
Reasons for the Annulment of Marriage
Annulments are less common than divorces, but that doesn’t mean they’re not necessary.
For example, if you never intended to get married, or you discover a fraud that could harm you financially, it might be in your best interest to get an annulment.
While an annulment does not exactly mean neither party is subject to community property laws, as the law still supports the division of property and debts, it can impact some other requests such as spousal maintenance.
How to Get a Marriage Annulment in Arizona
The process for getting an annulment of marriage is similar to getting a divorce.
However, there are two types of Arizona annulments: legal annulments and religious annulments.
A legal annulment requires proof that a religious annulment may not require.
The below requirements refer to legal annulments. If you think you want a religious annulment, you will need to speak to an official in your specific religious institution.
File Documents with the Superior Court
The first step in your marriage annulment is to petition the court. You must file a Petition for Annulment with the superior court in your county.
So, if you have established residence in Phoenix, Mesa, or Scottsdale, you will likely need to file your petition in Maricopa County.
Prove Your Marriage is Unlawful
Before an Arizona superior court judge will issue an annulment of marriage, you have to prove that the marriage should be declared null and void or that it was never a lawful union.
The burden of proof lies on the petitioner, and if they cannot present the court with the necessary evidence, the judge will not grant the petition. The following are some ways you can prove you do not have a valid marriage.
Lacking Mental Capacity
Marriages in Arizona require contractual intent. If at the time of the marriage, you lacked the mental capacity to enter into a contract, you may qualify for an annulment. For example, if you were under anesthesia, mentally ill, or suffer from a mental impairment that limits your ability to enter into a contract you may qualify for an annulment.
Depending on the alleged reason for the lack of capacity, you may need to provide medical records or other documentation to support the position.
If you were suffering from a mental illness at the time of your marriage, you might be entitled to an annulment. This is regardless of your mental health after the initiation of the union. Arizona superior courts do recognize temporary insanity as a valid reason to void marriages.
In Arizona, marriages are only lawful if entered into by two consenting individuals over the age of 18. 16 and 17-year-olds can get married, but only if they have legal consent from a parent or guardian or are emancipated. If either party entered into the marriage while underage, the marriage is not lawful and is eligible for annulment.
Fake or Mock Marriage
If you entered into a mock marriage or you believed the marriage was just an act and you did not actually intend to be legally married, it is not a valid marriage.
If you are able to prove that you were under the false assumption that the marriage was just a mock union, the judge might grant your annulment.
Your marriage is voidable in Arizona if it was fraudulent. However, keep in mind that you will need to prove to the court that your union was the result of trickery, false pretenses, or intentional misrepresentation.
When one or both parties enter into the marriage while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it might be voidable.
However, it depends on the situation. Plus, you will need proof that you were under the influence. Proving impairment is not easy, so it is important to consult with your attorney.
Incestuous marriages are not legal in Arizona. However, there are no pre-marriage blood tests or waiting periods in the state.
If you marry someone and later realize you have a blood relationship with them, you can petition the court for an annulment.
There is an exception to this rule, though. First cousins are allowed to marry in Arizona if they are over 65 or prove to the court that they are unable to have children.
If you’re looking for an annulment after legally marrying your first cousin, seek legal counsel prior to petitioning.
In Arizona, it is illegal to marry more than one person. If you find out your spouse has married someone else while you were married, your marriage contract is invalid.
These cases are much easier to prove than others because marriages are public record.
Inability to Consummate the Marriage
If you or your spouse are unable to consummate the marriage, either of you can petition the court for an annulment. However, you cannot have any children (adult or minor children) that resulted from the marriage.
Additionally, you have to prove that you did not know you or your spouse was unable to perform sexually before the marriage occurred.
Other Grounds for Annulment
An Arizona judge will consider a petition for any reason that makes a marriage unlawful or otherwise voidable under the law.
However, there are also many reasons a petitioner might want an annulment, but Arizona’s family laws wouldn’t allow it.
For example, domestic violence by itself does not qualify for annulments in the State of Arizona.
If you feel you entered into a marriage that is against the law or is otherwise voidable, consult with a divorce attorney prior to deciding whether to begin divorce proceedings or petition for an annulment. If you think you have a voidable marriage, you may want to consider an annulment.
Additional Requirements for Annulment in Arizona
In addition to proving that you have legal grounds for annulment, you must also:
- Live in Arizona for at least 90 days before your annulment petition
- File your documents with the appropriate Arizona court
- Be entered into a non-covenant marriage
- If you are in a covenant marriage, you will need to consult your attorney regarding your divorce and annulment options.
Additional Information About Arizona Annulment of Marriage
Getting an annulment is declaring your marriage void and null. This is much different than a divorce, which is the termination of a valid marriage.
However, a judge can still make decisions on your case that they would make in divorce proceedings. Much like a divorce, a family court judge can rule on the following in annulment proceedings:
- Court orders for child support
- Parenting time
- Legal decision-making for minor children
- Division of undissolved property
If a judge annuls your marriage, neither party can receive or request alimony payments.
Additionally, if you were receiving alimony from a prior marriage and your alimony payments stopped when you got married, you will be unable to reinstate alimony payments after the new marriage is annulled.
Seeking An Arizona Annulment?
While the legal process for divorce and annulment are similar, annulments often require additional documentation and proof before the judge grants the petition. Additionally, legal grounds for annulment are not always easy to prove.
This is why it is crucial to seek legal advice from a knowledgeable family law firm with experience handling Arizona marriage annulments.