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What are the Grounds for Annulment in Colorado?

Monday, 26 August 2013

annulment coloradoMost people assume that getting an annulment in Colorado is just a simple way to end a short marriage, but in reality the legality of it is seldom easier than divorce. Only certain situations qualify as grounds for the "invalidity of marriage," which is the legal term used to describe an annulment in Colorado. As a divorce lawyer in Colorado Springs, it's rare for me to get a call from someone looking for an annulment and even less common for a client to get one.

Ever since the "no-fault" divorce, most people find it easier to go that route. However, upon hearing about celebrities annulling their days-old marriage, people are led to believe an annulment is the easiest way to end a marriage.

From a purely practical perspective, the outcome of annulment, or invalidity of marriage, is no different than dissolution of marriage (divorce) in Colorado. The only legal distinction is that an annulment portends that the marriage never happened, which appeals to those who would prefer to avoid a divorce for religious reasons. It can also appeal to people who may have lost benefits or other payments when one party got married.

What is considered grounds for annulment in Colorado?

It's hard to get an annulment because the burden of proof is on the petitioner. Rather than simply proving the marriage is broken, a spouse seeking annulment must prove that it falls under specific legal grounds. In order to get a declaration of invalidity of marriage in Colorado, your case must meet on of the following criteria, as outlined in the C.R.S. 14-10-111(1). A Colorado family lawyer will help you determine if your situation qualifies for an annulment.

a. A spouse lacked the mental capacity to consent at the time of the marriage (e.g. mental incapacity, drugs, or alcohol),
b. A spouse lacked the physical capacity to consummate the marriage (i.e. cannot have intercourse), and the other did not know this at the time of marriage,
c. A spouse was under the age to consent to marriage (18, or 16 with consent, for a marriage in Colorado) and did not have consent from parents, guardians, or a Colorado family law court to marry,
d. One spouse married in reliance on the other's fraudulent act or misrepresentation which went "to the essence of the marriage",
e. One or both spouses married under duress,
f. One or both spouses married as a jest or dare, or
g. The marriage was void due to: bigamy/polygamy, incest (ancestor & descendant, siblings, uncle/niece, or aunt/nephew), or any other reason under the laws of the place where the marriage was entered into.

Fraud Going "to the Essence of the Marriage"

As mentioned above in line "d," fraudulent acts and misrepresentation may be considered grounds for annulment. However, the fraud must go "to the essence of the marriage."
Here are a couple of cases that provide good examples of a fraud which goes to the "essence of the marriage."

Marrying for a Green Card. In this case, the trial court found that the wife had only married her husband because the marriage would enable her to move to the United States and establish residency, not because she loved him. Because the husband was alone and vulnerable, the wife was able to convince the husband to marry her and she left as soon as her green card arrived. Again, this proved the invalidity of the marriage. In re: Marriage of Joel, 2012 COA 128.

Claim of an Illness. An example of this is when a wife who remarried her ex-husband based upon his representation that he had a terminal illness and his death was imminent was granted an annulment. According to the court of appeals, the wife could assert that she only remarried him based on his misrepresentation of the truth, which was that he was terminally ill. This goes to the essence of the marriage and if he was dishonest it would be considered grounds for annulment. In re: Marriage of Farr, 228 P.3d 267 (Colo. App. 2010).

What is the process for filing an annulment in Colorado?

If you would like to request an annulment in Colorado it is always best to contact a divorce attorney, but you may also visit the Colorado State Judicial website. Here you will find annulment forms and instructions on how to fill them out. The court instructions will explain which forms are required in your case. In addition to the forms, you will need to pay a filing fee or request a waiver of this fee.

The forms will need to be filed at the District Court in your county of residence. The other party must then be served with the papers and, if served in Colorado, they have twenty days to respond If your spouse is willing to file with you, you can both sign as "Co-Petitioners" and there will be no need to serve each other.

What about orders pertaining to children and property?

Generally, the rules for property settlement, spousal maintenance, custody and child support are the same as in a divorce action. Orders regarding all these issues can be obtained as part of an action to declare a marriage invalid. A party who is using a spouse's name can also request the return of the party's prior name used before the marriage. Children born of an invalid marriage are still legitimate.

If you wish to seek an annulment, or invalidate your marriage in Colorado, consult with a Colorado Springs family law attorney.

Photo Courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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MPatMarrisonFor over a quarter century, we have helped people during what is often the darkest time in their lives. Divorce is not easy even under the best of circumstances. For most people, family is central. Having something go wrong in the family can have a ripple effect that extends beyond the home and into other areas.

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