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Annulment vs. divorce: what you should know

An annulment is a declaration by the court that you are not legally married. It is different from a divorce because an annulment means that your marriage was not valid in the first place. Under Massachusetts law, there are only a few legal grounds for an annulment.

Keep in mind that even if your marriage is annulled, the court may still enter orders if you and your ex had children together. The court may, for example, order visitation or child support. 

To have your marriage annulled, you must prove that the marriage is void or voidable. A void marriage is a marriage that was never allowed under the law to begin with. If a marriage is void, it is as if it never existed. There are only a few circumstances in which a marriage can be void:

  • One of you was already married to someone else.
  • You married a close relative. This includes not only a blood relative but also a close relative by marriage. A close relative is defined as a parent, stepparent, grandparent, stepgrandparent, sibling, niece, nephew, child, or grandchild.

A voidable marriage is a valid marriage that can be annulled due to a certain problem. Such problems include:

  • One of you does not have the requisite mental capacity to enter into the marriage. Examples of this are when one person is intoxicated or mentally ill.
  • One of you is not physically able to have sexual intercourse.
  • One of you is not old enough. Under Massachusetts law, you must be at least 18 years old in order to get married. If you are younger than 18, you need permission from your parents and from the court to get married.
  • The marriage was entered into for fraudulent purposes. This means that one person had ulterior motives for getting married, such as for legal immigration status.

If you would like to get your marriage annulled, you may find it helpful to speak with a family law attorney. The process for getting an annulment in Massachusetts can be much more difficult than getting a divorce. You must be able to prove to the court that one of the reasons stated above apply in your case.


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