Contrary to popular belief, there are two ways to legally end a marriage. One is divorce, and the other is through an annulment. Divorce is the legal termination, or ending, of a marriage. An annulment, on the other hand, is completely erasing a marriage. In legal terms, this means that the marriage never existed and never was in fact valid. Just like divorce, there are grounds for annulment, and they vary state by state. Annulment, as some may say, is like going a step further than divorce. It is important to note that civil annulments, which will be discussed throughout this post, differ from religious annulments, which will not be touched on here. To see whether divorce or annulment better fits your situation, contact a Fargo family law attorney to weigh your options.
North Dakota Grounds for Annulment
North Dakota recognizes seven grounds for annulment, and they are as follows:
- One of the spouses was under the legal age for marriage (18) at the time of marriage
- One of the spouses is still married to someone else
- Either spouse was of unsound mind
- One of the spouse’s consent to the marriage was acquired through fraud
- The consent to marriage was acquired through force
- The marriage is incestuous
- One of the spouses is physically incapable of sexual intercourse
These grounds for annulment differ greatly from the grounds for divorce in North Dakota. However, even if one of the grounds is met, it can be waived. The grounds that can be waived are the age of consent, unsound mind, and fraud. These can be waived, as provided by the statute, in similar ways. For the age of consent, if one spouse was underage, but after reaching the age of 18 freely cohabits with the other spouse, then it is waived. If unsound mind is used as a ground, it can be waived if the spouse who was of unsound mind comes to reason and freely cohabits with the other spouse. Finally, if fraud is the ground, after realizing the fraud and knowing the facts surrounding the fraud, if the spouse freely cohabits with the other spouse, the fraud ground is waived.
How is an Annulment Obtained?
In North Dakota, a hearing is required in order to obtain an annulment. Also, one of the seven grounds, listed above, needs to be proven in court. This differs from divorce because not all divorces require a trial. Annulments are complicated, and a lot of necessary legal paperwork needs to be filed in court requesting the annulment, and evidence supporting your claims must be provided.
If you and your spouse are planning on splitting up and do not know whether a divorce or annulment will be best for you, contact Tracy Lyson, an experienced family law attorney at O’Keeffe O’Brien Lyson Attorneys, who will guide you through the legal process and make sure that your needs are met. Call 701-235-8000 or 877-235-8002 today.