Is There a Time Limit for Getting a Marriage Annulled?

Here’s a great article by Todd Spodek, a New York Divorce Lawyer. The laws that govern marriage and divorce for most states do not set a time limit under which a motion for annulment of a marriage must be brought. In fact, most states will leave such decisions to the discretion of the court hearing the annulment motion so long as the court will adhere to the rulings of other courts that were presented with the same or similar circumstances.

Some states, such as California, limit annulment to a certain period of time after a significant life milestone. As an example, California law limits an annulment on the part of an underage party at the time of the marriage to within four years after the underage party reaches the age of legal consent. This four-year statute of limitations is also true in cases of fraud that was not discovered until later, where the statute begins on the date that the fraud was discovered.

In general, the longer period of time that has elapsed since the marriage and the filing of the request for annulment makes it less likely that an annulment will be granted. In most cases the only exceptions to this generalization will be made in cases where there was a deliberate concealment of a fact that might have caused the other party not to enter into the marriage, such as concealing the existence of a previous marriage that ended in divorce or the fact that one party had a criminal record that was unknown to the marriage partner.

If there is a situation that would have prohibited one party from legally marrying, such as still being married to a spouse and not having obtained a divorce prior to the current marriage, an annulment may be granted regardless of how much time has elapsed. This is also generally true if the parties would have been legally unable to marry for reasons such as being under the age of consent or if they were related to each other in such a degree that state law would have banned the marriage.

A court is under no obligation to grant an annulment if the judge thinks that an annulment is not in the best interests of justice and thus, by extension, the interests of the parties involved in the annulment request. As an example, if the court feels there has been too great a time that has passed since the marriage and that the parties have accumulated too much property in common that a return to their pre-marital status would unfairly penalize on party, the court may dismiss the annulment action and suggest that a divorce is a better course of action.

Like a divorce, a request for annulment must be made in the state where the original marriage took place. If this is not possible due to the parties having lived as a couple in another state, an annulment request will be valid if the requesting party has met the state’s residence requirement for filing for divorce.

Recapping the above, most states do not place a time limit on when an annulment can be requested. There are some jurisdictions, such as California, where state law has established such limitations but even these can be subject to modification depending on the circumstances of each case. In any case, and regardless of jurisdiction or special circumstance, the advice of a domestic relations or family law attorney familiar with the appropriate state law should be consulted prior to beginning an annulment action.

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