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.
A spouse may seek an annulment is the marriage is invalid. In Mississippi, a marriage may be invalid due to any of the following "grounds" (reasons):
A marriage is completely void if it is between: parent and child, including step relations and adopted children; grandparent and grandchild, including step relations; siblings, including step relations; first cousins; aunt and nephew; uncle and niece; and, parent and child's widow. Children born to any of these marriages will be considered illegitimate.
Bigamy happens when one spouse was already married to another living person at the time of the second (or subsequent marriage). This type of marriage is void, but children of the bigamous marriage will be considered legitimate.
Incurable impotency that existed at the time of the marriage will be grounds for an annulment. This type of case must be brought within six months after the impotence is discovered or else the marriage is not eligible for an annulment.
The age of either or both spouses may provide grounds for an annulment. Parental consent is required for females between ages 12-15, and for males between ages 14-17. Parental notice is required for females between ages 15-21, and for males between ages 17-21. If these rules are violated, but the marriage is followed by cohabitation (the underage husband and wife live together), then the marriage automatically becomes valid.
A marriage may be annulled if a court finds one or both spouses were mentally ill or mentally incompetent at the time of the marriage. A case based on incompetence must brought within six months after the marriage and may be brought by the incompetent person, a next of kin or friend.
When consent to marry is obtained by force or fraud, the marriage may be invalid. For example, when the wife is pregnant by a person other than the husband at the time of the marriage, and the husband didn't know of pregnancy or was told the baby was his, the marriage may be annulled. However, the case must be filed with the court within six months of reasonable knowledge of the pregnancy. If husband and wife continue to live together after knowing of the pregnancy, the marriage may become valid. Annulments based on other situations of fraud, or based on a claim of force, must also be brought within six months of knowledge of the fraud or force, or else the marriage will become valid.
If a husband and wife do not live together after they are married, either spouse may seek an annulment. However, if the couple does live together, and thereby consummate the marriage, they are not eligible for an annulment.
If you meet one or more of the above situations, you may be eligible for an annulment. If not, then you may be able to seek a divorce instead.
A case for annulment should be filed in the chancery court of the county where the non-filing spouse ("defendant") lives, the county where the marriage license was issued, or the county where the filing spouse ("plaintiff") lives, if he or she lives in another state.
Because annulment is a complicated claim to make, you should seek the help of a lawyer to file your case.
When a judge orders a marriage annulled, the effect is that the marriage never existed and that the couple was never married. This is different from divorce, where a marriage exists but is then ended by a court order.
Children of an annulled marriage are considered legitimate children of the marriage, except children of an incestuous marriage. When children are legitimate, the husband and wife are eligible to seek court orders on child custody, visitation and child support.
When an annulment is granted, the court may also choose to make orders regarding division of marital property and monetary support (similar to alimony) to be paid by one spouse to the other.