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What's an 'annulment' of marriage in Georgia?

We have previously discussed some of the processes regarding obtaining a termination of marriage in Georgia, also known as 'divorce.' While this is the most common way of ending a marital relationship, there is another way to legally end a marriage: annulment. Annulment, as we shall see, is only available in very specific cases, and is certainly not the path everyone should take. However, in some circumstances it may make sense to pursue it rather than the more common divorce proceeding.

So, what's the basic difference between a divorce and an annulment? Generally, while divorce terminates a valid marital relationship, an annulment creates the legal presumption that the original marriage never occurred. Filing for an annulment is an acknowledgement that the marriage never should have legally been allowed in the first place. As such, the grounds for annulment are based upon the legal premises that prohibit marriage between two people.

For example, if the parties are close relatives that should not have been allowed to marry, an annulment maybe appropriate. Also, a lack of capacity to consent on the part of at least one of the parties, such as low mental capacity or being under age 16, may be grounds for an annulment. Being coerced or tricked by fraud into the marriage may be another reason for an annulment. Finally, bigamy, or the fact that one party was legally married to someone else at the time of the marriage in question can be grounds for annulment. One thing that may prevent an annulment being granted, even given one of the above circumstances, is if the parties have children. The reason for this is the state's interest in not 'delegitimizing' children.

Annulment is filed for in much the same way as a divorce, and the court can make decisions with regard to property and other issues in a similar way. One of the main differences in procedure is that an annulment can be granted by the court beginning 31 days after proper service has been performed. Because the grounds for annulment are so strict, anyone who believes he or she may qualify may wish to consider contacting an experienced Georgia family lawyer.

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