It is a common misconception that annulment and divorce are the same thing. While the outcome is virtually the same, insomuch as you are no longer married, there is a marked difference between these two processes. When you are divorced, you legally end a valid marriage. With annulment, the contract of marriage is voided because it is deemed invalid, making it as if your marriage never existed.
From a practical perspective, your union will end either way, so why would you choose a Michigan annulment over divorce? There are actually several reasons why you might seek annulment rather than divorce, but only certain reasons are recognized as valid grounds for annulment Michigan. Here’s what you need to know before you move ahead with annulment proceedings.
Valid Reasons for Annulment in Michigan
There are several circumstances in which an annulment may be granted, including the following:
- Age – If one or both parties is not of the age of consent when the marriage takes place (i.e. under the age of 16, or under the age of 18 without consent of a parent or guardian), the marriage is invalid and may be annulled.
- Incapacity – Michigan annulment may be obtained if one or both parties is found to suffer from a valid physical or mental incapacity, infirmity, or defect. For example, if one spouse if found to be unable to have children or one spouse is deemed to lack the mental capacity to agree to marriage in the first place, annulment is possible, but there may be time limits.
- Bigamy – If one spouse was still legally married to a third party at the time of the marriage, it is considered grounds for annulment.
- Kinship – Cases in which spouses are closely related (as with siblings, for example) are eligible for annulment.
- Fraud – If a marriage is entered into under certain fraudulent circumstances, annulment is possible. For example, if one spouse fails to divulge a known inability to have children, enters the union with no intent of consummating it, or lies about the paternity of a child, the aggrieved spouse may have grounds to seek annulment.
- Duress – If one spouse is somehow forced into marriage against his/her will, he/she may seek annulment.
- Illegal Ceremony – Marriages must be performed by persons granted legal authority to do so or they are eligible for annulment.
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Invalid Reasons for Annulment Michigan
Many people mistakenly assume that because a marriage is short in duration, annulment is not only possible, but preferable. Unfortunately, this is not the case in Michigan. You can’t erase your marriage because you made a mistake or entered into it hastily.
You also can’t seek a Michigan annulment purely based on the fact that you have not consummated the marriage or that you have not lived together – you must have a valid complaint if you hope to obtain legal annulment of marriage in the state of Michigan.
Benefits of Annulment
Although there are several valid reasons to seek a Michigan annulment, you still need to understand why such action is preferable to divorce. The main benefits center on division of assets and spousal support.
If you discover that you have entered into marriage under fraudulent circumstances, for example, chances are you’re not interested in splitting marital assets or paying spousal support once the split is legal. Keep in mind that Michigan is a no-fault divorce state, which means assets are generally divided equally among spouses in the event of a contentious divorce. In addition, the partner earning more money may be deemed liable to pay spousal support for a set amount of time following divorce.
If you seek and obtain Michigan annulment, it may sway the court in determining a property settlement, most likely in favor of the injured party. Plus, the entitlement to spousal support is dependent on having been a legal spouse. Since annulment erases an invalid marriage, as if it never existed, there are no legal grounds for a claim of spousal support.
Child custody and child support will generally proceed in much the same way as with a divorce, depending on the reason for the annulment. For example, annulment based on one party being pregnant and having lied about the spouse being the parent would likely affect the outcome of child custody and child support determinations.
Keep in mind that annulment isn’t necessarily easy to obtain – in fact, it is much more difficult than divorce based on the burden to prove a legally valid cause for annulment to be granted. Unless you can prove legal grounds for annulment, you may be better off filing for divorce.