Divorce is favored over annulment when ending a marriage in Maryland, but unlike some other states, Maryland divorce laws sometimes present more hurdles. When ending a marriage, it is wise to consult a family law attorney to see whether divorce or annulment is more appropriate for your particular situation. The requirements for divorce and annulment vary from state to state.
An annulment is essentially a decree that renders a marriage null and void. The court is required to hear testimony from the plaintiff (person bringing the annulment proceedings) in open court in order to make a final determination as to whether annulment is proper.
A valid marriage in Maryland is one in which both parties were competent when they got married and both understood and consented to the change in marital status. Maryland requires individuals to apply for a license from the clerk of the county in which they marry. At least one of the partners must provide information about the full names of the couple, their residence, age, degree to which they are related (if any), their marital status and social security number. Occasionally, in spite of these precautions being taken, a couple will get married under circumstances that are different than their perceptions.
In Maryland, there are several specific grounds for annulments, several based on the idea that at least one partner did not understand or was not able to consent to the marriage at the outset. They include (1) consanguinity, (2) bigamy, (3) duress, (4) impotency, and (5) mental disability including insanity.
A marriage is voidable, for example, if one of the parties didn’t have the capacity to agree to the marriage. So a marriage is voidable if one partner is mentally ill at the time, or is forced by the other, or if certain material facts are concealed from the other party, or if one party is underage. However, these requirements are more stringent than they seem. For example, to claim duress, one spouse must fear great bodily harm.
Similarly, for fraud to apply, the fraud must have to do with essential aspects of marriage. Simply lying about one’s financial situation or even one’s past marital status is insufficient. The fraud must be something that affects health or offspring, such as a wife hiding her pregnancy. Moreover, an annulment must be applied for in this circumstance as soon as possible. If the party claiming to be defrauded continues to live with the partner and does not apply for an annulment, the fraud is believed to be waived.
Annulment may be granted alongside an award of spousal support, child support and property division. In the past, children born of annulled marriages were considered illegitimate. Today, a child born of an annulled marriage is considered legitimate unless it is proven that the husband is not the father. Just as the court does in divorce proceedings, the court may consider custody of children in annulment proceedings.
If you are going through a difficult family law problem, an experienced Maryland family law attorney can help you determine what legal action to take next. Contact our office via the online form for a legal consultation.
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