Most people are at least somewhat aware of the differences between divorce and annulment. But for those who aren’t, here is an easy summary: Divorce ends a legally valid marriage, while annulment ends a marriage that was either void to begin with or could be voided due to the circumstances under which the couple got married.

There is a common belief that annulment is automatically possible if the marriage was very short. This isn’t true. It’s not like a window of time in which you can return a purchased item. Your marriage can only be annulled if it meets certain criteria, which we’ll discuss in today’s post.

Marriages That Are Not Legal

In Massachusetts, certain marriage scenarios are not legal, and are therefore considered “void.” These include:

Bigamy: one spouse was already married at the time of the wedding, and the other spouse did not know. If the non-married spouse did know but got married anyway, a divorce must occur.

Close-family marriages: Obviously, incest is illegal. Therefore, you can’t marry your siblings, parents, grandparents, nieces/nephews, etc. But under Massachusetts law, you also cannot marry family members that you are related to by marriage (step-family members).

Other Marriages that Can Be Annulled

In the scenarios listed above, the state won’t allow you to stay married. They are “void.” In the scenarios below, the state will allow you to stay married if you choose, but you can annul instead. These are considered “voidable.” Scenarios include:

One spouse too young to marry: Both spouses must be at least 18 or have permission from their parents and the court. If at least one spouse is underage and lacks permission, the marriage can be annulled.

Mental incapacity: Both spouses must have the mental capacity to consent to getting married at the time of the marriage. A marriage is voidable if one of the spouses is considered cognitively disabled to the point where they are unable to consent. It could also be the case that one spouse was too drunk to consent at the time.

Substantial fraud: A marriage needs to be based on truth. Some lies are big enough that they warrant annulment. If one person marries another for immigration status but convinces the other person that it is only for love, that could be grounds for annulment. If one spouse lied about their ability to have children, this could also be grounds in some cases.

Physical inability to have sexual intercourse: This one is kind of self-explanatory.

Have More Questions? Contact Us.

If you have more questions about annulment or divorce in Massachusetts, give our firm a call to speak to an experienced family law attorney.