Most people who want to end a marriage in Utah need to do so through divorce. But in certain limited circumstances, there is another option: annulment. Annulment is the declaration that a marriage was null and void. Unlike a divorce, which terminates a marriage, annulment means the marriage never actually existed.
While any married person can seek a divorce, you must fall into certain categories to qualify for an annulment in Utah. In Utah you may get an annulment if:
In addition, you may be able to get a marriage annulment for reasons not listed in the statute, but on common law grounds such as fraud, misrepresentation, or unwillingness/inability to consummate the marriage. However, some of these grounds may be difficult to prove, and having to testify regarding some of these issues in court may be embarrassing.
A common myth about annulment is that you can get one if you change your mind within a certain brief window of time after the wedding. Unfortunately for those who realize on the way back up the aisle that they made a mistake, an annulment is not available.
Whether a marriage annulment is “better” than a divorce depends on what is important to you. Annulment typically takes less time and costs less than a divorce, which is a clear advantage. For some people, there is still a stigma attached to divorce, and they may prefer an annulment simply so that they can honestly say they were never divorced.
Many people who seek an annulment want one for religious reasons, such as because their religion frowns on divorce. If you qualify for an annulment on legal grounds in Utah, your church may still have a process that you need to follow to have an annulment recognized within the church. Check with your clergyperson if this is important to you.
An annulment does tend to be less complicated than a divorce simply because the marriage in question was usually of fairly short duration. There are often no children, and the couple may not have accumulated much property together. That said, when necessary, a court granting an annulment can provide for child support, parent time, and a division of property between the parties. But the circumstances in which annulment are available are so limited that many couples who would prefer an annulment have no choice but to get a divorce instead.
As with a divorce or most legal actions, the process of getting an annulment in Utah begins with the filing of a document: Complaint for Annulment. This document sets forth the grounds you are claiming for annulment and the relief you are seeking (the annulment, plus anything else you are asking the court to grant, like alimony).
The Complaint is filed in the district court for the county in which either you or the other person lives. The other person must be served with the Complaint, and you will have to file a Proof of Service with the court showing that the other person received it. Then the other person will have the opportunity to file an Answer to the allegations you made in the Complaint.
The court will schedule a hearing at which you and the other person can present testimony and other evidence in support of your respective positions. If the court finds that there are grounds for annulment, it will be granted. If the court does not find that there are grounds for annulment in Utah, you will need to pursue a divorce if you still want to end your marriage.
Before seeking an annulment, consult with an experienced Utah family law attorney to determine if you have (and can prove) grounds for annulment. Your attorney can help you to file for annulment and successfully complete the annulment process if that is the best option for you; if not, she can guide you through the various steps of the Utah divorce process. We invite you to contact Barton Wood to schedule a consultation.