The Basics of Annulment in Montana

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

Overview

Annulment is a civil court process that declares a marriage never existed. You can only get an annulment in very limited situations. Many people think an annulment is an easier or quicker alternative to getting a divorce but this is simply not true. Because the situations in which an annulment could be granted are limited and very specific, you should seek the help of a lawyer if you want an annulment. Additionally, this process should not be confused with a religious annulment which should be pursued through your clergy. A religious annulment has no legal effect on your marital status as far as the state is concerned.

Grounds for Annulment

A spouse may seek an annulment if the marriage is invalid. In Montana, a marriage may be invalid due to any of the following:

Bigamy

Bigamy is when one spouse was already married to another living person at the time of the second (or subsequent) marriage. This subsequent marriage will be invalid unless the previous marriage is dissolved and the husband and wife of the subsequent marriage continue to live together.

Kinship

A marriage is invalid if it is between any of the following relatives: parent and child; brother and sister, whether half blood, whole blood or adopted; first cousins; aunt and nephew, whether half or whole blood; and, uncle and niece, whether half or whole blood. This type of marriage can never be made valid.

Incapacity

Incapacity may include mental and physical incapacity. Mental incapacity may be due to mental illness or infirmity, or because one spouse was under influence of alcohol, drugs or other substance at the time of marriage. To claim a marriage is invalid due to mental incapacity, the spouse must be unable to form the ability to make a marriage contract. You can not seek an annulment based on mental incapacity if it is more than one year after you learned of the problem.

Physical incapacity means a spouse is unable to consummate the marriage by sexual intercourse and, at the time of the marriage, the other spouse did not know of the physical incapacity. You must bring a case for physical incapacity no more than 4 years after learning of the problem.

Force, Duress or Fraud

A marriage will be invalid if one spouse is induced to get married by force or duress, or if there is fraud by one spouse regarding the essentials of the marriage contract. You must bring this case no more than 2 years after learning of the condition.

Under Age

A marriage will be invalid if one or both spouses are under the age of 16, or one or both are between 16 and 18 and do not have the consent of parents, guardian or the court. This type of annulment case must be filed before the underage spouse reaches legal age of marriage. If it is not, the marriage automatically becomes valid once both spouses are of legal age.

Process of Getting an Annulment

When a marriage is invalid, a spouse (or a representative for a spouse in some cases) may file papers for an annulment in the Montana district court where one of the spouses lives. No case for annulment can be brought after the death of one of the spouses.

Because annulment is a complicated case to bring to the court, you should seek the help of a lawyer to file your case.

Effect of an Annulment

When a judge orders a marriage annulled, the effect is that the marriage never existed and that the couple were never married. This is different from divorce, where a marriage exists but is then ended by a court order.

Children born of an annulled marriage are considered legitimate children of the husband and wife. The court may make orders about child custody and visitation, as well as child support. The court may also make orders for spousal maintenance (payments made by one spouse to another), and make orders regarding division of any marital property.

Resources

Mont. Code Ann. § 40-1-401 - Prohibited marriages - contracts

Mont. Code Ann. § 40-1-402 - Declaration of Invalidity

Mont. Code Ann. § 40-1-404 - Putative spouse

Mont. Code Ann. § 40-6-201 - Legitimacy of children born in wedlock

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