The Basics of Annulment in Rhode Island

Can you get an annulment? Get more information about the process in Rhode Island.

Rhode Island does not allow annulments, but a marriage may be declared “void” (invalid, as if it never happened) under certain circumstances. This article describes when your marriage may be considered null and void in the state of Rhode Island.

If you have additional questions after reading this article, you should contact a local family law attorney for advice.

Overview of an Annulment

An annulment is not the same thing as a divorce. Divorce terminates a valid marriage. Annulment is more akin to pretending a marriage never happened; it means there was never a valid marriage in the first place. Even though there’s no such thing as legal annulment in Rhode Island, your marriage may be declared void during a divorce proceeding - a void marriage has the same effect as an annulment.

When is a Marriage Considered Void?

A marriage may be declared void in any of the following situations:

  • incest - you and your spouse are closer in relation than first cousin
  • bigamy - you or your spouse was married to someone else at the time of your marriage
  • mental incompetence - you or your spouse was mentally incompetent at the time of marriage (for example, severe mental illness or retardation), or
  • refusal to consummate marriage – your spouse refuses to have sexual intercourse during the marriage.

Unlike many other states that allow annulments, one spouse’s impotence or drug addiction won’t support a request to declare a marriage void in Rhode Island.

How Can I Have My Marriage Declared Void?

You'll have to go through the same steps for divorce in order to have your marriage invalidated in Rhode Island. This means you will have to file for divorce and state the ground(s) for voiding your marriage in your petition (legal paperwork) for dissolution (termination) of marriage.

You'll also have to prove your case and convince a judge that your marriage should be nullified. To do so you'll have to gather and submit evidence that shows one of the legal grounds listed above. This may include documentary evidence and witness testimony. The rules of evidence and trial procedure can be complicated, even for experienced attorneys. If you believe your case will end up in trial, you should consult with an experienced family law trial attorney for help.

If the court believes that your marriage was invalid from the start, the judge will declare your marriage void instead of granting a divorce.

For more information on filing for divorce in Rhode Island, see the article  Divorce in Rhode Island.

Effect of a Void Marriage

If your marriage is declared void, it means your marriage ever existed. Both spouses can say that they were never legally married to each other.

In Rhode Island, children of a void marriage are always considered legitimate, which means both parents will have a duty to financially support their children. Subject to court limitations, both parents will have rights to custody and visitation, and the children will be eligible to inherit from either parent.

If you have children from a void marriage and your child's other parent refuses to contribute financially, you will need to file a petition for child support. For more information about calculating and enforcing child support in Rhode Island, see the article  Child Support in Rhode Island.

Resources

For the full text of the law on null marriages in Rhode Island, see the  Rhode Island General Laws, § 15-1-3 through 15-1-6.

Click here for the Rhode Island Family Courts website.

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