Wondering whether or not your marriage qualifies for annulment or if divorce is the route you need to take?
Many people have a vague idea of annulment as meaning their marriage has been disqualified one way or another.
For those who are new to the concept, it’s important to understand that a marriage can only be annulled when it can be shown that it was “invalid” from the start. Problems that arise after getting married don’t qualify for annulment, making divorce a far more realistic route to pursue in the vast majority of situations.
Let’s dive in and explore a little more about annulment as well as how the annulment process is handled in Wisconsin for those who do qualify.
1. What are the grounds for annulment in Wisconsin?
Unlike a divorce between two cooperative spouses, you need a firm legal ground for an annulment in Wisconsin. Like I said earlier, these grounds needs to be shown to have been an issue from the very beginning of the marriage in order to prove that the marriage itself was illegal and is invalid.
Here are the grounds for annulment here in Wisconsin:
- If a spouse is shown to be mentally impaired or otherwise mentally incapable to the degree that he or she couldn’t understand the marriage, the marriage is invalid. This includes intoxication as a result of drugs or alcohol.
- The legal age to marry in Wisconsin is 18 unless parental consent is given. If a spouse is shown to be underage at the time of marriage without parental consent, the marriage is invalidated.
- If a spouse lied, hid, or otherwise deceived the other person about something that was essential to the marriage, the marriage ban be shown to be invalid.
- If a spouse was forced, threatened, or coerced to enter into the marriage, it’s grounds for annulment.
- If a spouse can’t physically have sexual intercourse, the marriage was never consummated and therefore invalid.
- Relatives that are first cousins or closer cannot be legally married in Wisconsin.
- If one spouse can be shown to have had a wife or husband at the time of the marriage, any additional marriages are invalid.
- If the marriage occurred within six months of a one spouse’s divorce, the marriage is not valid.
A handful of these legal grounds are conditional and if you believe you may be eligible to receive an annulment, contact an experienced family law attorney to learn more about the conditions surrounding your situation.
2. How do I get an annulment in Wisconsin?
If you believe your marriage is in fact invalid, here’s a simple step-by-step guide to the annulment process:
- 1. File a “Petition for Annulment” in the circuit court for the county that you or your spouse is living in. Remember, the petition requires you to have lived in Wisconsin for at least 30 days.
- 2. Get an extra copy of the petition when filing it to serve to your spouse. If you’re apprehensive about serving your spouse for any reason, the clerk’s office can assist you in deciding the best possible course of action. Keep in mind there are options for those who don’t know where their spouses are.
- 3. After your spouse has been served the petition, the circuit court will then schedule and hold a hearing to decide whether or not your annulment will be granted. Be sure to bring any evidence and witnesses that can assist you in showing the judge your marriage is in fact invalid. If you’re able to convince the judge an annulment is valid, he or she will sign an order to grant the annulment.
3. What happens afterward?
Unlike a divorce, which effectively ends a marriage, annulments granted by a judge mean the marriage never happened. From a legal standpoint, you and your spouse were never married.
Just like divorce, however, the judge can order child custody, child support, alimony, property division, and visitation rights.
Effects of annulment on children in Wisconsin
If you and your spouse do have children, an annulment does not erase legitimate status, and they’ll still be retain their rights to receive financial support from either or both spouse.
In Wisconsin, property and children are treated the same whether your marriage is annulled or you ended through a divorce. After the primary hearing to decide whether or not your marriage will be annulled, the secondary issues are addressed specifically in a second hearing.
Keep in mind that for those that do have children, you’ll need to create a parenting plan before being granted an official decree. If you’re confident you’ll be unable to reach a plan cooperatively with your spouse, the court can appoint what’s called a “guardian ad litem.” This is an attorney tasked with representing the interests of your children. Judges can also order custody evaluations if he or she deems it necessary.
4. Is there a waiting period for annulment in Wisconsin?
In short, no.
Unlike a divorce which carries a waiting period of four months between the time you file a petition and can be granted an official separation, there is no waiting period for annulment in Wisconsin.
More often than not, valid annulments are clear-cut cases and can typically be granted much more quickly than a divorce. If children and property don’t enter into the equation, it’s possible the process can end without needing a second hearing.
If you’re wondering if your marriage is valid, or are seeking assistance with your divorce, contact an experienced Beloit Family Law firm, The Fitzgerald Law Firm, today for a free consultation. We understand that meetings may not be possible during traditional business hours, so please let us know a time that works for you and we’ll do our best to accommodate you.
Photo credit: Peter Megyeri