People often don't understand what marriage annulment means, partly because of the difference between religious and civil annulments. In a religious annulment, a church tribunal or other religious body declares that a marriage wasn't valid in the eyes of the church. In a civil annulment, a judge declares that the marriage wasn't valid in the eyes of the law.
To confuse matters even more, Texas law makes a distinction between annulment and a court declaration that a marriage is void. This article focuses on civil annulments and legal proceedings to have a marriage declared void in Texas.
In Texas, there are two categories of marriages that may be declared void: marriages that are voidable—meaning that judge may annul those marriages under certain circumstances—and marriages that are automatically void because they're illegal in Texas. There are different legal reasons ("grounds") for voidable and void marriages.
If a marriage is prohibited under Texas law, it's automatically void—with or without a legal proceeding to make that determination. However, you may file a petition for a declaration that the marriage is void, in order to clarify your marital status and ask the judge to issue certain orders (more on that below).
In Texas, the following types of marriages are void:
Even though void marriages are invalid from the start, Texas law provides that bigamous marriages will become valid if the spouse who was already married gets a divorce in the earlier marriage and, after that, continues to live with the later spouse as a married couple.
You may seek to have a marriage annulled in Texas for one of the following reasons:
A historical note: Some underage marriages (involving 16- or 17-year-olds) that took place before September 2017 were voidable under Texas law, rather than automatically void. By now, however, there's no way to get an annulment in those marriages. That's because the law required that parents or guardians filed petitions to annul those marriages before the minor's 18th birthday. (Tex. Fam. Code §§ 6.103, 6.205 (2022).)
With some voidable marriages, you won't be able to get an annulment in Texas if you voluntarily continued to live with your spouse as a married couple after the condition that could invalidate the marriage no longer existed—for instance, after you:
(Tex. Fam. Code §§ 6.105, 6.106, 6.107, 6.108 (2022).)
Texas sets a time limit on requesting an annulment of some voidable marriages:
(Tex. Fam. Code §§ 6.109, 6.110 (2022).)
Many of the procedures for getting an annulment or declaration of a void marriage are similar to the process of filing for divorce in Texas, but the residency requirements are different.
If you want to get an annulment in Texas or a declaration that your marriage was void, you must meet one of the residency requirements:
(Tex. Fam. Code §§ 6.306, 6.307 (2022).)
You'll file either a petition to annul a marriage or a petition to declare a marriage void. If you and your spouse have children, you'll also need to file a form for a "Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship." You should file the petition and other paperwork in the county where:
(Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. § 15.002 (2022).)
Check with the local district clerk to find out which courts in the county handle annulments and void marriage proceedings, as well as any local rules and procedures that apply in these cases. You can find contact information for district and county clerks on the Texas Judicial Directory.
You'll need to pay a filing fee (which varies from county to county), unless you apply and qualify for a fee waiver.
After you've file the paperwork, you must either have your spouse sign a waiver of service form (to acknowledge having received copies from you) or arrange to have a sheriff or private process server hand-deliver the documents to your spouse.
Divorce (or "dissolution of marriage") ends an existing marriage. When you get an annulment or have a marriage declared void (more on that below), it's as if the marriage never existed.
However, Texas judges may issue some of the same kinds of orders in annulments and void marriage proceedings as in divorces. For example:
(Tex. Fam. Code §§ 7.001, 8.060, 151.001 (2022).
You don't need your spouse's consent or signature to request an annulment or a declaration to declare your marriage void. But you will have to give testimony (and sometimes other evidence) to convince a judge that your marriage is void or voidable. Your spouse has the right to come to the court hearing and dispute your claims. So if your spouse doesn't want an annulment or claims that your marriage isn't void, you should speak with a family law attorney.
However, if you and your spouse can agree—especially if you don't have children—the process of getting an annulment or a declaration of void marriage should be easier. Texas Law Help provides a guide for annulling or voiding marriages, including instructions and forms for do-it-yourself agreed annulments for couples who don't have children and haven't acquired marital property other than personal effects.
There's another option if your spouse isn't going to contest the annulment but also isn't going to cooperate and sign the papers. You may file for a default annulment. And if you don't have children together, you can use the do-it-yourself forms and instructions for default annulment from Texas Law Help.