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Annulment—An Invalid Marriage

1)  What is an annulment?

An annulment is a judicial finding that a valid marriage never existed. What this means is that  the marriage is either: (1) void from the beginning, or (2) voidable.

A marriage that is void from the beginning includes: bigamy (marriage performed while one person is still married to prior spouse); close relative (see MCL 551.3-4 for prohibited relationships); incompetence of a party (not capable at law of contracting at time of marriage).

A marriage that is voidable includes: underage-without consent (however parties may affirm by living together after age of majority); fraud or duress (but the party seeking to void must move out after fraud is discovered); other grounds (such as inability to have children–where one party withheld knowledge and failed to disclose it).

2)  What is the difference between a marriage that is void from the beginning (ab initio) and voidable?

A marriage which is void from the beginning (MCL 552.1) theoretically does not require judicial action to dissolve the marriage. However, judicial action may be needed to solve issues of property rights, child custody, and other such problems usually faced in divorce.

Whereas, a marriage, which is voidable, requires that the parties petition the court. In either case, parties can petition the court pursuant to MCL 552.3-.4 for an annulment.

3)  How are annulled marriages treated by the court?

Michigan treats the petition for and subsequent proceedings in an annulment the same as in divorce (MCL 552.3). This means that property and will be divided the under the same principles as divorce (equity).

However, where divorce has a stricter length of residency requirements, annulment only requires that one party to the marriage is a resident of the county where the petition is filed.

4)  What happens to the children of an annulled marriage?

Children born of any marriage are considered legitimate (MCL 552.1, .29). Further, the court will still provide for the custody and support of the children of an annulled marriage, regardless of the reason. MCL 552.16; Gallison v Gallison, 5 Mich App 460 (1966). Basically, the same child custody and support framework used in divorce is applicable to an annulment.

5)  Conclusion:

Marriage issue can cause great distress and cause emotions to run high. That is why you want experienced counsel at your side. Before moving or petitioning the court, contact our legal team in Grand Rapids at 616-698-0000 or www.clickforhoward.com

Statutory and other links: MCL 552.3-.4 (annulment petition), MCL 552.1, .29 and 552.16 (Children of the marriage)

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