There are people who flippantly say getting married was the biggest mistake of their lives. When an unhappy marriage ends in divorce, it’s natural to have regrets. However, there are situations when getting married actually is a mistake, and, in those cases, the law must allow an expedient way to correct it. Fortunately, it does. In this article, we go over how to get an annulment in Colorado.
In this Article:
- What Exactly is an Annulment?
- Grounds for Declaration of Invalidity in Colorado
- How Do I Obtain a Declaration of Invalidity?
- Will I be Considered Single or Divorced after the Marriage is Voided?
- What Becomes of the Children after a Colorado Annulment?
- Can Courts Award Alimony or Child Support after Annulment in Colorado
- How Does an Annulment Affect Spousal Maintenance Payments?
Talk to an Attorney about Getting an Annulment in Colorado
If you or someone you care about has entered a marital union that might be considered invalid under the law, then annulment could be a way to remedy the problem. The Family Law Team at Robinson & Henry has the experience and sensitivity to look at your matter and help you find the best possible solution. Call 303-688-0944 for your free case assessment.
What Exactly is an Annulment?
An annulment is one of two ways the law provides to legally end a marriage between two living partners. Most people know this, yet they still misunderstand exactly when or why an annulment is sought instead of a divorce. Here’s the difference:
Divorce ends an existing, valid marriage.
Annulment is a legal declaration that no actual marriage ever existed. C.R.S. 14-10-111 (5).
This is why Colorado’s official term for it is a Declaration of Invalidity. It’s the same as an annulment, but the official term draws a better distinction between it and divorce. Marriages are declared invalid as of the date of the attempted marriage.
While people can file for divorce at any time after they are married — 2, 20, even 40 years later — that is not the case for an annulment. The law limits how long you have to file for an annulment. So, let’s take a look at the statute of limitations and the legal reasons someone can ask for one.
Statute of Limitations
Marriages that end in divorce typically take at least a year to reveal unresolvable issues between the partners. Marriages that should be declared invalid become problematic almost immediately, and therefore require more urgency from anyone seeking to dissolve them.
The specific deadline ranges anywhere from six months to two years depending on the reason why a declaration of invalidity is sought. In rare cases involving bigamy or incest, the statute of limitations does not expire until one of the spouses has died.
Failing to file for a declaration of invalidity before the statute of limitations expires will cause the state to treat the union as a legal marriage.
Who Can File for Annulment?
Anyone of the spouses may petition the state to have their marriage declared invalid as long as they do so within the statute of limitations. However, depending on the reason the annulment is being sought, other parties outside the marriage can begin an action to void the union.
Grounds for a Declaration of Invalidity in Colorado
You cannot have a big fight with your spouse during or after the honeymoon and then stomp down to the courthouse to seek an annulment. Colorado only recognizes certain situations as being grounds for declaring a marriage invalid.
Each reason for annulment is listed below, along with the filing statute of limitations and who may file the action.
When the marriage became official, one of the spouses could not legally consent due to mental health problems or because they were intoxicated by drugs or alcohol.
Statute of limitations: 6 months after learning of the spouse’s mental health problems or intoxication
Who can file: either spouse, both spouses simultaneously, or the parent or guardian of one of the spouses
Inability to Consummate
One spouse is unable to consummate the marriage by sexual intercourse and the other spouse was not aware of that issue at the time they said their vows.
Statute of limitations: 1 year
Who can file: one of the spouses
One spouse was underage at the time of the marriage and never obtained consent from a parent, guardian, or Colorado judge.
Statute of limitations: 2 years from the date of the attempted marriage
Who can file: either spouse or the parent or guardian of the underage spouse
One spouse committed fraud or misrepresentation to get the other spouse to marry them and the nature of the fraud goes to the essence of the marriage relationship.
Statute of limitations: 6 months after learning of the fraud
Who can file: either spouse
One spouse agreed to marry under duress from the other, or both spouses married under pressure from a third party.
Statute of limitations: within 6 months of realizing they married under duress
Who can file: one or both spouses
One or both spouses only agreed to marry as a joke or a dare.
Statute of limitations: 6 months
Who can file: either spouse
The marriage is illegal under Colorado law either because it is bigamous (one spouse is still legally married to someone else) or because the spouses are related by blood.
Statute of limitations: any time before one of the spouses dies
Who can file: either spouse in the unlawful marriage, a spouse from the legal marriage, or any children from either marriage. C.R.S. 14-10-111 (1)-(3)
How Do I Obtain a Declaration of Invalidity?
Unless the marriage being voided occurred in Colorado, the spouse seeking the annulment must live in the state for at least 30 days before making an official request. C.R.S. 14-10-111 (7)
Beyond that, the process is fairly straightforward. The Colorado Judicial Branch has downloadable PDF forms and instructions to guide you toward obtaining a declaration of invalidity.
It is important to fill out all forms completely, accurately, and legibly, and to follow all instructions exactly as they are written.
Where Do I File Annulment Forms?
Once the forms are completed, you must file them at the district court in the county where you currently live. You do not file these forms in the county where you got married unless you live in that county.
Then, the other spouse must be served the papers much as one would at the start of divorce proceedings. The papers will be served by a third party. From that date, the other spouse has 21 days to respond if served in Colorado. If they live in another state, they have 35 days to respond.
What is the Overall Annulment Process Like?
In Colorado, the process is strikingly similar to getting a divorce, except it’s quicker.
Unlike a standard dissolution of marriage, you don’t have a 91-day waiting period before the annulment can begin. Besides that, the process is near-identical to obtaining a divorce.
Will I Be Considered Single or Divorced after the Marriage is Voided?
You’ll be single in the eyes of Colorado law. Once you obtain a declaration of invalidity from the court, your marriage will be deemed to have been invalid from the start, not from the date of the judge’s order.
As a practical matter, this means you cannot refer to yourself on official forms as ever having been “married” at any time between the date of the voided marriage and the date when the judge granted the declaration of invalidity. Remember, receiving an annulment means the marriage never existed.
What Becomes of the Children after a Colorado Annulment?
Some people worry that once their marriage is declared invalid, the paternity of their children can be questioned or that the state could take their kids away.
That won’t happen in Colorado. State law is clear that children born of a prohibited relationship are legitimate. Generally speaking, this is not even a relevant issue in modern times.
Colorado also has many presumptions of paternity, and one or more will likely apply to your children’s situation. Once a court has decided who the presumed father of a child is, it is extremely difficult to overturn.
Can Courts Award Alimony or Child Support after Annulment in Colorado?
In Colorado? Yes.
The courts in many other states lack statutory authority to award alimony or child support, or even to divide debts and property. The reasoning is that if no valid marriage existed, there can be no marital estate.
Colorado’s courts are more generous, as state law directs them to apply the same consideration to invalidated marriages as to a regular dissolution of marriage. That means that even after the annulment, you are entitled to the same equitable property division, child support, visitation rights, and spousal maintenance provisions as a divorcee. C.R.S. 14-10-111 (6)
How Does an Annulment Affect Spousal Maintenance Payments?
If one spouse is receiving maintenance payments from a previous marriage, Colorado law states that those payments end if that spouse remarries. C.R.S. 14-10-122(2). But what if the remarriage was declared invalid?
Well, in the case of an invalid marriage, the spousal maintenance payments from the previous marriage could be restored. Here’s how the Colorado Supreme Court ruled on that issue:
“We hold that, while an annulment of a marriage does not automatically reinstate a maintenance obligation from a previous marriage as a matter of law, such an obligation may be reinstated, depending on the facts and the equities of the situation.” In re Marriage of Cargill, 843 P.2d 1335, 1336 (Colo. 1993)
Talk to an Annulment Attorney Before You Go it Alone
While filing for a declaration of invalidity (annulment) in Colorado is pretty straightforward, the rest of the process can be stressful, especially if the other spouse is uncooperative or cannot be trusted to negotiate in good faith. Our experienced family law attorneys can help you achieve the fair outcome you deserve. Call 303-688-0944 for your free case assessment.