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Annulment as a Legal Procedure

Annulment can be defined as a legal procedure for declaring a marriage null and void. Annulments differ from divorce where the court ends an otherwise legal marriage on a specific date. Being a legal term, annulment refers only to making a voidable marriage null; if the marriage is void ab initio, then it is automatically null, although a legal declaration of nullity is required to establish this. As a rule the process of obtaining such a declaration is similar to the annulment process.

Some marriages are void due to the spouses being close relatives, or they were entered into while one was still married. Marriages which are otherwise legal at inception can be annulled if one of the parties was under the legal age of consent (18 years old) at the time of the marriage, unable to consent to the marriage due to lack of understanding, incurably mentally ill for 5 or more years, physically incapable of entering into the marriage, or their consent was obtained by duress, fraud or force. A legal action is required to pursue a marriage annulment, as the marriage is considered valid until annulled.

Even though an annulment dissolves a marriage, unlike a divorce, an annulment treats a marriage as though it never happened, and is a popular option for those who would rather clear their permanent record of its existence. An annulment also makes it easier on many persons who would have a more difficult time remarrying in a church. By the way, the Roman Catholic Church offers religious annulment after a civil divorce, as well. Generally, an annulment occurs shortly after the marriage began, where there are no assets or children to worry about. As a rule, state laws dictate the distribution of property and support payments in longer marriages that are annulled.

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