Annulment is a frequently misunderstood legal concept, because popular culture and religion have presented differing and often inaccurate views of what an annulment is in terms of family law. This article focuses on "civil annulments" not "religious annulments," which can only be granted by a church or clergy member and have no effect on legal, marital status as far as the state is concerned.
Annulments and divorces are similar in the sense that they make a determination about marital status. But the vital difference between them is that divorce ends an existing, valid marriage, whereas annulment simply declares that what everyone thought was a marriage was never actually a marriage at all. In the eyes of the law, an annulled marriage never really existed.
There are a number of grounds, or reasons, why you can ask a Connecticut court to declare your marriage void:
Connecticut's superior (trial) courts have exclusive jurisdiction (authority) to hear annulment cases, so that is where they're filed.
There are no official court forms to help you prepare annulment documents, but your local law library or court clerk might be able to offer some guidance. The plaintiff (the spouse who wants an annulment) should serve and file a complaint for annulment and file it in superior court in the judicial district where either the plaintiff or the defendant live. The plaintiff's complaint must include the following information:
That's not all the information that should be included, but it's a listing of some of the essentials.
After the plaintiff files and serves the complaint for annulment, the defendant can file an answer. The answer may admit or deny any or all allegations in the complaint. The answer should contain the defendant's claims for relief or an answer and cross-complaint requesting a dissolution (divorce), legal separation, or annulment.
Both spouses will have to appear in court. The plaintiff will bear the burden of proof to prove that the marriage is invalid and should be annulled. The plaintiff will have to prove that there should be an annulment by "clear and convincing evidence," which means that the evidence must be very strong and highly persuasive. The reason the burden is so high is because as a state, Connecticut has made a decision to assume that marriages are legal and valid.
If you're thinking about asking for a declaration of invalidity, it's a good idea to talk to a lawyer first. In addition to the custodial and child support issues you'll face if you have kids, there could be very serious financial ramifications for you when the court divides assets and debts. You will also want to discuss any possible statutes of limitations with an attorney to make sure you don't miss any deadlines.
If you are the plaintiff and you win your case and get an annulment, know that your marriage will be deemed invalid from the moment you married, not from the date of the judge's order. You will be restored to the status of a single person and you can marry again.
Some people worry that if their marriage is declared void, the paternity of their children will be called into question. This is not an issue in Connecticut. Connecticut law provides that the "issue" (children) of an annulled marriage are legitimate and must be legally treated as though they were the product of married or divorced parents. Therefore, when the complaint for annulment is filed, the superior court will also make decisions about child support, custody, and visitation—just as it would in a divorce case.
Most state courts don't have statutory authority to award alimony or divide property or debts as part of an annulment case. The logic behind this is that there cannot be a marital estate if there wasn't a valid marriage. But Connecticut is different and has more generous statutes. Connecticut's laws specifically require the superior court to equitably (fairly) divide a couple's property and debts when it decides an annulment case, just like a divorce.
The Connecticut Judicial Branch Law Library maintains a webpage with extensive information about annulment in Connecticut, including research guides, statutes, and fact sheets.