What’s the difference between annulment and divorce?
In Oklahoma, marriage is defined as a "personal relation" arising out of a "civil contract." Dissolution of marriage (divorce) terminates a valid marriage contract. Annulment is a court order declaring that the marriage was void (invalid) from the outset, and it treats the marriage contract as though it never existed.
Why would I seek an annulment?
Some people who entered into a void marriage prefer an annulment over a divorce because they want to avoid any perceived stigma associated with being divorced.
Others may have religious reasons that drive their request for an annulment. For example, certain religious organizations may not allow divorced members to remarry within their church, whereas a church marriage may still be an option in the case of an annulment.
What are the grounds for annulment in Oklahoma?
Contrary to popular belief, one cannot annul a marriage in Oklahoma just because the marriage lasted only a few weeks or months. Failure to consummate a marriage sexually is also not grounds, by itself, to annul a marriage. Annulment has to do with the capacity of the parties to enter into the marriage contract, and good faith dealing between the parties.
A marriage can be annulled for any of the reasons that a contract can be set aside, including:
- either party was under age
- either party lacked the mental capacity or understanding to enter into the marriage contract, and
- either party was induced to marry as a result of fraud.
However, buyer's remorse and absence of intimate relations, by themselves, are not sufficient grounds to annul a marriage.
How do I obtain an annulment in Oklahoma?
The party who was unable to contact to the marriage, or his or her parent(s) (in the case of an underage spouse) may bring a legal action for annulment in district court.
However, if that party continues to cohabit with the other purported spouse after the incapacity ceases, that may be a defense to the request for annulment. So, for example, if an underage spouse continues living with the other spouse after reaching the age of majority, and then brings an action for annulment later, that continued cohabitation will provide the other spouse with a valid defense to annulment.
For the complete text of the law governing annulment, see 43 Okl.St.Ann. § 128