Pop superstar Britney Spears famously had her 2004 marriage annulled after only 55 hours, spawning a new generation of late-night television joke fodder. However, Texas courts do not consider annulment a laughing matter. Read this article to learn if you qualify for an annulment in Texas.
Topics to Explore
- How an Annulment Differs from a Divorce
- Am I Eligible for One?
- How Does Annulment Affect My Property?
- Will I be Eligible for Alimony?
What is an Annulment and How do I Get One in Texas?
An annulment nullifies your marriage. Unlike divorce, which puts an end to a valid marriage, an annulment means that your marriage was never valid in the first place.
Texas law provides several grounds under which a person can file an annulment:
- One spouse was younger than 18 and did not have parental consent for the marriage.
- One spouse was under the influence of alcohol or narcotics.
- Either spouse is permanently impotent.
- One spouse used fraud, duress, or force to convince the other spouse to get married.
- A spouse lacked the mental capacity to consent to the marriage.
- A spouse concealed a prior divorce.
- The spouses were married less than 72 hours before filing for an annulment.
Requirements for Getting an Annulment in Texas
Requirements vary based on why you want an annulment. In most cases, however, the court will not grant a petition if the spouses continued living together after discovering the reason for annulment.
You cannot marry in Texas if you are under 18 and have not been legally emancipated from your parents. Tex. Fam. Code § 2.003
If a spouse is between the ages of 16 and 18 and got married without parental consent or a court order, a judge may grant an annulment. The judge will consider the welfare of both spouses, including whether the wife is pregnant. Tex. Fam. Code § 6.104
In this scenario, the following people can file for annulment:
- a “next friend” of the underage spouse, within 90 days of the day the spouses married
- a parent
- the underage spouse’s managing conservator or guardian, whether an individual, authorized agency, or court. Tex. Fam. Code § 6.102
Once the spouse has turned 18, however, none of these people can file for annulment.
“Under the Influence”
If you were under the influence of alcohol or narcotics when you got married — to the point that you lacked the capacity to consent to the marriage — a judge may grant your annulment.
If your spouse was permanently impotent (unable to have sexual intercourse for physical or mental reasons) at the time of marriage, you may file for annulment if you were unaware of the condition when you got married. Tex. Fam. Code § 6.106
Fraud, Coercion, or Duress
If your spouse knowingly misrepresented a critical fact or failed to share information that would have led you to not marry them, this is fraud. You can file for annulment as long as you have not lived with your spouse since discovering the fraud.
The same applies if your spouse threatened you into marrying them by coercion or duress. However, claims of coercion or distress are rarely successful in an attempt to nullify a marriage unless you can show you felt that you had no choice other than to marry or you were threatened with bodily harm.
This annulment ground is twofold. A guardian or “next friend” can file for annulment on behalf of a spouse who lacked the mental capacity to enter a marriage. Likewise, a person can file for annulment if he or she “neither knew nor reasonably should have known” of the spouse’s mental incapacity at the time of marriage. Tex. Fam. Code § 6.108
This applies if the petitioner did not know — and a reasonably prudent person would not have known — that their spouse was divorced from a different person in the 30-day period preceding their marriage. The next friend must show that mental incapacity was such that the spouse could not have consented to the marriage.
You must file for annulment before the first anniversary of your marriage. Tex. Fam. Code § 6.109
Annulment After Less than 72 Hours of Marriage
A judge can grant an annulment if the spouses were married less than 72 hours after their marriage license was issued. This annulment petition must be filed within 30 days of the marriage. Tex. Fam. Code § 6.110
Annulment and Property Division
In annulment proceedings, judges have the same legal authority to divide the couple’s assets as they would in a divorce. Let’s look at one Texas case.
Michael Villarreal married Assoliya Villarreal, a Russian native he met online. After moving to Conroe with Michael, Assoliya told him she did not feel secure in their marriage because none of Michael’s assets were in her name. Subsequently, Michael transferred ownership of his Corvette to Assoliya, along with half the interest in his home.
Michael filed for annulment after discovering multiple dating profiles Assoliya had set up on her personal computer. She had told several men that her marriage to Michael was “a very bad match” and she was simply “waiting for papers to get out of here.” Villarreal v. Villarreal, No. 09-09-00319-CV (Tex. App. July 22, 2010)
Court Awards Separate Property
A Montgomery County trial court found that the transfer of the wedding ring, the Corvette, and the half-interest in the home Michael purchased prior to the marriage were based on Assoliya’s marital promise, and therefore induced by fraud.
The court set aside those gifts and confirmed the property as Michael’s separate property. The court also confirmed as Michael’s separate property all interest in his employment benefit plans. Villarreal v. Villarreal, No. 09-09-00319-CV (Tex. App. July 22, 2010)
Assoliya appealed, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision:
“The trial court could reasonably find that Assoliya had always intended to leave Michael after obtaining his property and establishing her right to remain in the country. The court could reasonably find she made representations and promises she intended Michael to rely on, and as a result, he married her and transferred property to her.” Villarreal v. Villarreal, No. 09-09-00319-CV (Tex. App. July 22, 2010)
Can I Still Get Spousal Maintenance if I Get an Annulment?
Yes. In a Texas annulment, courts may award spousal maintenance to a “putative spouse” (the one who believed the marriage was valid) if that person otherwise qualifies for maintenance. Tex. Fam. Code § 8.060
Talk to a Divorce Attorney About a Possible Annulment
Getting an annulment in Texas is never easy, but if you truly feel your marriage was a mistake, our family law attorneys can help. Call 214-884-3775 to begin your free case assessment.