Our office gets a lot of calls about annulment. Annulment in Texas is actually divided into two distinct mechanisms – Annulment and Void Marriage. Depending on the situation, a party would either file a Suit for Annulment or Suit to Declare Marriage Void.
Suit for Annulment
A suit for annulment is filed when a party wishes to annul the marriage, and have a Court confirmed that not only was the marriage never legal, but, it never legal to begin with. There is a presumption in Texas that until and unless an annulment is granted, the marriage is legal.
An annulment in Texas is granted one of the following grounds:
- Marriage to a minor (under 18 years of age) without the minor obtaining parental consent or being emancipated prior to the marriage
- A party was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, did not understand that they were entering into a marriage, and, the parties have not voluntarily cohabitated (i.e. lived together) after the fact
- A party is impotent, the party requesting the annulment did not know, and, the parties have not voluntarily cohabitated (i.e. lived together) once this was found out
- The marriage was entered into under fraud, force, or duress, and the parties have not voluntarily cohabitated (i.e. lived together) after the fact
- One of the parties lacked mental capacity at the time of the marriage to understand what they were doing, and, the parties have not voluntarily cohabitated (i.e. lived together) after the fact
- A party concealed a divorce 30 days before marriage, the other party did not know, and, the parties have not voluntarily cohabitated (i.e. lived together) once the facts became known
- A marriage was officiated less than 72 hours after the parties obtained their marriage license
The annulment suit is filed in the county where either party has lived for at least six months, which may not be particularly where the marriage took place
Texas courts are reserved when it comes to annulment, and Judges generally do not like to declare a marriage to be annulled unless the evidence is strong. Again, the overwhelming presumption is that the marriage is valid. In addition, because many of these grounds are subjective, often times an annulment becomes a literal “he said/she said” situation.
Suit to Declare Marriage Void
A Suit to Declare a Marriage Void (“voidance”) is closely related to an annulment, but is different. Like an annulment, a voidance seeks to have the Court confirm that the marriage is not legal. Unlike an annulment, a voidance is based on a legal impediment which cannot be cured, or, waived. There is simply no way that a marriage which is sought to be declared void could ever be lawful. As such, a voidance is simply going through the steps to ensure that a Court confirms the marriage is void. Unlike an annulment where the issue can be argued, in a voidance, things are pretty much cut and dry.
To have a marriage declared void, a party has to prove one of the following grounds:
- Incest – a marriage is considered void if it is between a party and a person related to them as (a) ancestor and descendent by blood or adoption, (b) brother and sister, (c) aunt or uncle, niece or nephew. For these purposes, family relation can be by blood or through adoption, as well as whole blood or half blood. (Interestingly, while Texas Family Code §6.201 states that a marriage license cannot be issued to first cousins by whole blood, half blood, or adoption, Texas law does not explicitly declare such marriages void.);
- Marriage to a minor (under age of 18); or
- Marriage to stepchild or stepparent
The suit to declare marriage void is filed in the county where either party has lived for at least six months, which may not be particularly where the marriage took place.
Unlike an annulment, there is very little way of arguing against the voidance of a marriage because the grounds are cut and dry. The voidance process is very much the same as that of an annulment, and the outcome is the same – the marriage is declared to have been void from its inception.