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.
A spouse may seek an annulment if the marriage is invalid. In Missouri, a marriage may be invalid due to any of the following:
Bigamy is when one spouse was already married to another living person at the time of the second (or subsequent) marriage. This type of marriage is completely void.
If one or both spouses are under age 18 at time of marriage, and do not have written consent of their parents or permission of court, then the marriage is invalid.
A marriage is invalid if it is between any of the following relationships: a parent and child; a grandparent and grandchild of any degree; a brother and sister; an aunt and nephew or uncle and niece; or first cousins.
Lack of capacity can include mental incompetence, senility or insanity of one or both spouses. It may also include physical incapacity or impotence. In the case of impotence, the court may find the marriage invalid if the impotence existed at the time of marriage but was unknown, and it is incurable and permanent.
In Missouri, common-law marriages entered after 1921 are considered void, unless entered into in a state that recognizes them.
If a spouse is under duress at the time of the marriage, he or she is unable to make a valid marital contract and therefore the marriage is not valid. If one of the vital elements to making the marriage contract was concealed or misrepresented, the marriage may be invalid due to fraud. A fraudulent marriage can be made valid if a spouse discovers the fraud after the marriage but continues to live with the other.
Even though the marriage is invalid under any of the above situations, and is therefore viewed legally as having never existed, you must still seek an annulment to make your marital status clear. Because the law regarding annulment is complicated, you should seek the help of a lawyer to file your case with the court. Your case will be filed in the circuit court of the county where either you or your spouse lives.
When a judge grants an annulment, the effect is that the marriage never existed and that the couple were never married. This is different from divorce, where a marriage exists but is then ended by a court order.
Alimony/spousal maintenance is not available when a marriage is annulled. However, attorney fees may be awarded to either side and spousal support may be awarded for the period of time until the official annulment is granted by the court.
Children of annulled marriage are considered legitimate children of the marriage if born during the marriage or within 300 days after date of annulment. This means that the parents may be ordered to pay child support and that the child(ren) of the marriage may inherit as though the marriage had been valid. The courts may also make orders regarding custody of the children. The fact that the marriage was invalid at the time of conception does not make the child(ren) illegitimate, unless a court order states otherwise.