Determining that a marriage should be annulled is a difficult thing for many people to do. It involves many factors that should be carefully weighed. Most people immediately think that divorce is the only way to end a marriage, but an annulment is often a better option.
Under Georgia law, a marriage may be annulled when it is declared void by law. Void marriages include those that have not met the requirements for a valid marriage. In order for a marriage to be valid in Georgia, there must be:
- Parties able to contract;
- An actual contract; and
- Consummation according to law.
In order for a party to enter into the contract of marriage a party must:
- Be of sound mind;
- Be at least 17 years of age, but if either party is 16 or 17, then he or she must obtain parental consent;
- Have no living spouse or previous undissolved marriage; and
- Not be related to the prospective spouse by blood or marriage within the prohibited degrees.
If any of the above factors are not met, then the marriage may be declared void. Void marriages also include those that are entered into fraudulently or by force. However, even when the above factors are not present at the outset, a marriage may later be determined valid. This would occur if the party later consented and ratified the marriage, freely and voluntarily, or lived together as husband and wife.
There are instances in which an annulment will not be granted even if the necessary criteria are met. If children were born from the marriage or are to be born from that marriage, then an annulment will not be granted.
In order to have the marriage annulled, the procedure is the same as if the parties were seeking a divorce. The parties will first file a petition with the court to have the marriage annulled. If a minor or someone of unsound mind wishes to have his or her marriage annulled, the petition must be filed by a legal representative. However, there is an important difference in procedure between an annulment and a divorce. If there is personal service at least 30 days before the court date and no contest or answer is filed, then the annulment may be ordered at any time.
If at any time an annulment is granted, it will have the same effect as a total divorce between the parties of a void marriage. An annulment will return the parties to their original status before the marriage. Thus, each party will be left single and will have the ability to remarry.
As previously stated, determining to end one’s marriage is a personal decision that can only be made by that individual. Whether a divorce or an annulment is appropriate, the attorneys at Vayman & Teitelbaum will work to develop a course of action that is personalized to your needs.