The Basics of Annulment in Maine

Wondering if you can get an annulment? Learn about the grounds for an annulment and how to get one in Maine.

If you want to know if your marriage is eligible for an annulment in the state of Maine, this article explains the difference between annulment and divorce, when a marriage can be annulled, and the effects of an annulment.

You’ll want to check with the district court of the county where you or your spouse live to see if they have requirements beyond the steps listed below. If you have additional questions about whether your marriage can be annulled, contact a local family law attorney in for advice.

Overview of an Annulment

An annulment is different from a divorce: a divorce ends a marriage while an annulment means no valid marriage ever existed. Some people may prefer an annulment to a divorce for social reasons, such as any perceived stigma of divorce. This article focuses only on civil annulments, not religious annulments, which can only be granted by a church or clergy member and have no legal effect on your marital status.

Grounds For an Annulment

You must have a legal "ground" or reason for your marriage to be annulled in Maine. Maine recognizes the following grounds for annulment:

  • the spouses are related as first cousins or closer
  • one spouse had another living spouse at the time of marriage
  • one spouse is mentally ill or has mental retardation
  • one spouse is underage
  • one spouse defrauded the other into getting married (limited circumstances), and
  • one spouse is impotent (limited circumstances).

Some grounds for annulment have additional rules:

Normally, two related people who are first cousins or closer cannot have a valid marriage, but if they are first cousins, and went through genetic counseling with a doctor, they can get legally married. In this case, the marriage can’t later be annulled.

If one spouse is mentally ill or has mental retardation to the point that they can’t understand the meaning of marriage, they are eligible to have the marriage annulled. If a spouse is mentally ill or has mental retardation at the time of the marriage, but had the ability to make a responsible decision at the time of marriage, that marriage may not be annulled.

A person under the age of 18 but above the age of 16 must have parental consent to get married. A person under the age of 16 has to have both judicial and parental consent to legally get married. If the underage spouse had the proper consent at the time of marriage, they can’t have the marriage annulled later for being underage.

Marriages where one spouse defrauded the other to get married are very difficult to have annulled. You will likely need overwhelming evidence of a major fraud to have a marriage annulled on these grounds. Marriages annulled because one spouse is impotent are also very rare. Speak with a Maine family law attorney if you are in one of these categories and want to have your marriage annulled.

How Do I Get an Annulment?

In Maine, you have to file a “Complaint for Annulment” in the district court for the county where your spouse lives, or in the county where you have lived for at least 60 days. See if the clerk at the district court for your county has a sample complaint for annulment that you can use. A link showing maps and contact information for all Maine district courts is included in the "Resources" section below.

The spouse filing for annulment is called the “plaintiff” in the complaint, and the other spouse is the “defendant.”

Your complaint for annulment needs to say which spouse has lived in the county where you’re filing, and for how long. Your complaint should also state the date of the marriage, and whether any children were born from the marriage. You also need to state your grounds for an annulment.

After you file your complaint with the district court, you have to serve your spouse with a copy of the complaint. The clerk at your district court can give you options to serve your spouse. Although a little more difficult, it is possible to serve your spouse even if you can’t find them or they live out of state.

A judge will decide if you have proven that your marriage should be annulled. If the judge agrees, the judge will sign an order granting an annulment of your marriage. The judge may also grant your annulment if your spouse agrees that the marriage should be annulled.

Effect of an Annulment

When an annulment is granted, it means you and your spouse were never legally married. Both spouses can say that they never had a legal marriage.

In Maine, you can also ask that the judge divide any property that you and your spouse have when the marriage is annulled.

A marriage can still be annulled if children were born during the marriage. In Maine, unless one spouse can prove that they are not the child’s parent, the children of an annulled marriage are considered legitimate, meaning both parents have a continuing duty to financially support their children.

Resources

For the full text of the law on annulment in Maine, see the Maine Revised Statutes, Title 19-A, Chapter 23http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes/19-A/title19-Ach23sec0.html

To see if there is a courthouse or volunteer program in your area that can help you file for an annulment, see here:http://www.ptla.org/courthouse-assistance-and-helpline

Contact information for all the Maine District Courts is here:http://www.courts.state.me.us/maine_courts/district/directory.shtml

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