If you believe you may be eligible for an annulment of your marriage in the state of Indiana, this article will explain what an annulment is, tell you if you may qualify for one, and will describe the effects of an annulment.
You should always check with the superior court of the county where you live to find out if they have additional requirements beyond what is listed below. Also, if you have specific questions about whether your marriage qualifies to be annulled, you should contact a local experienced family law attorney for advice.
An annulment is different from a divorce: rather than ending a valid marriage, an annulment means that there was no valid marriage in the first place. If you have a legal ground that makes your marriage invalid from the beginning of the marriage, you may be eligible to have your marriage annulled.
There are a number of grounds that may make your marriage eligible to be annulled. In Indiana, this is also called having a void marriage.
A marriage may be void on the following grounds:
Some of these grounds have additional requirements for an annulment to be granted.
If one spouse was underage and failed to get the required parental consent, that's not enough for an annulment. If one spouse didn’t know the other spouse was underage, however, that marriage is eligible for annulment.
If one spouse lied to the other spouse about things that are not essential to the marriage, like having previously been married (but are no longer married), or certain things about their character, that fraud won’t be enough for an annulment. If one spouse lies about still being married at the time of a second marriage, however, that will be enough for an annulment. Also, if a spouse continues to live with the other spouse after finding out about the fraud, they may no longer be eligible for an annulment.
If the spouses are first cousins but were married after September 1, 1977 and both are over 65 years old, the marriage is not eligible for annulment.
If you believe one of the above grounds applies to your marriage, you will need to file a “Petition for Annulment” in the superior court of the county where you live. Contact your county court clerk (see below for a link to find your superior court) to see if they have a form petition you can use.
The spouse filing for the annulment is identified on the petition as the “petitioner,” and the other spouse is the “respondent.”
The petition for annulment must state that you and your spouse have been residents of Indiana for at least six months, and also that you’ve been a resident of the county where you are filing for at least three months. The petition should identify which of the legal grounds your request is based on.
The petition should also state whether there are children of the marriage. If you need the other spouse to pay your attorney’s fees or provide funds for your living expenses until the annulment is granted, you should state that as well.
You may have to appear in court and explain to the judge the reasons your marriage be annulled. If the judge agrees, the judge will sign an order granting your annulment. The judge can also sign an order granting your annulment if your spouse doesn’t dispute that the marriage should be annulled.
If you and your spouse agree to the annulment, rather than filing a petition for annulment, you may be able to file an “Agreed Annulment.” You need to state that both spouses have been residents of Indiana for at least six months and residents of the county where you’re filing for at least three months. The agreed annulment states that the respondent knew the reason the marriage wasn’t supposed to take place and that the petitioner was unaware of that reason. Once the judge signs the agreed annulment, the annulment is complete.
When an annulment is granted, the spouses are treated as though the marriage never existed; the spouses can say that they were never legally married to each other.
If there is property that needs to be divided, the judge who grants your annulment can also sign an order dividing your property.
A marriage may still be annulled even if the spouses had children during the marriage. In some cases, the court may still decide that the children are legitimate, meaning they can still inherit from either parent and both parents have a duty to financially support the child.
Children born from parents who are too closely related are still considered legitimate. Children born by married parents who discover that one spouse had another spouse living after the children were conceived are also considered legitimate. Children conceived before the date of marriage or after an annulment are considered illegitimate. Also, if a mother is married, but not to the father of her child, the child is illegitimate.
For the full text of the law governing void marriages and annulment in Indiana, see the Indiana Code, §31-11-8 through §31-11-10. http://law.justia.com/codes/indiana/2012/title31/article11/
A list and contact information for all Indiana Superior Courts can be found here: https://www.in.gov/judiciary/2794.htm.