Family Law Attorneys in Provo, Utah
In certain situations, a party to a marriage may be able to seek an annulment rather than a divorce. An annulment is a court decree stating that a valid marriage never existed, whereas a divorce decree dissolves a marriage. There are various legal grounds for seeking an annulment rather than a divorce.
Our attorneys have experience with annulments in Utah and can help guide you through the particularities and procedures involved in seeking an annulment.
Thanks in large part to TV shows and movies, there are some misconceptions surrounding annulments, how to get them, why to get them, and whether or not its even possible. To take an oft-cited example, length of marriage is actually not a legal reason for the court to grant an annulment, at least not in Utah. Other facts and circumstances are required for a person to be granted an annulment.
“The legal effect of an annulment, which not only terminates the marriage but renders it void from its inception, is well known. Corwell v. Corwell, 179 P.3d 821, 823 (UT Ct. App. 2008). In other words, an annulment differs from a divorce by essentially erasing the marriage — it never existed, rather than just ending a marriage through divorce. This can have different financial, legal, and even religious implications and consequences.
Utah Code 30-1-17.1 states that grounds for an annulment are laid out in statute and common law. Through statutory law, incestuous marriages, underage marriages, and marriages where one person was already married to someone else are grounds for annulment. Under the common law, fraud can be grounds for an annulment. However, this fraud is different from civil fraud as it must go “to the essence of the marriage.” Haacke v. Glen, 814 P.2d 1157, 1158 (UT Ct. App. 1991). In the case of Haacke v. Glen, the husband concealed from his new wife the fact that he had been convicted of a felony while living in Alabama. When he would return to Alabama to pay his fines and make restitution, which he did using their joint funds, he told his wife that he was instead going to take care of child support. His wife worked for the Utah Department of Corrections as an attorney and was informed by her employer, after the marriage, that her husband had a criminal record. This constituted a conflict of interest with her job, and so her husband’s fraudulent conduct affected her career as well. The court held that an annulment was justified in that case since the husband’s actions “violated the essential purpose of the marriage.”
There are grounds other than fraud that can justify an annulment. Misrepresentation, similar to fraud, can constitute grounds. So too, can the refusal to consummate the marriage. While Utah law does not currently have case law that deals with both annulments and the refusal to consummate the marriage, other states have held that it can constitute grounds for an annulment. The Utah Courts’ webpage, located at https://www.utcourts.gov/howto/divorce/annulment.html, also suggests that refusal to consummate a marriage may justify an annulment.
The difficulty comes in applying your specific facts to the law. “Courts have recognized that justice may demand that an annulment be granted even though there is no case with the same set of specific facts. This includes cases where the grounds pleaded for annulment could also constitute grounds for divorce[.]” Haacke v. Glen 1159 (quoting Means v. Industrial Comm’n, 515 P.2d 29, 32 (Ariz. 1973)).
The lawyers at Howard, Lewis, & Petersen are well-equipped to apply the facts of your case to the law of annulments, answer any questions you have, and lead you through the process of procuring an annulment. Contact us today to speak with an experienced domestic lawyer and to determine whether or not you are eligible for an annulment.