Annulment is a legal proceeding initiated to terminate an invalid marriage and to declare that no valid marriage ever took place because of a problem existing at the time of the wedding ceremony. The basic difference between a divorce and annulment is that divorce dissolves a valid marriage, and annulment proclaims that there never was a valid marriage. Annulments are rare compared to divorces, partly because of the wide availability of no-fault divorce.
The main grounds for obtaining annulments are fraud, physical incapacity, non-age, force or duress, mental incapacity, bigamy, and consanguinity.
Concealment and misrepresentation are used very commonly in annulment proceedings as part of the fraud ground. Most of the time, annulments for fraud are not granted as a matter of right and are granted only after close consideration. In most states, the courts require clear and convincing evidence of fraud and a showing that the injured party would not have married but for the fraud.
Some of recognized subjects of concealment that are sufficient to justify annulment are:
- concealment of pregnancy at the time of the marriage;
- concealment of a venereal disease at the time of the marriage;
- concealment or misrepresentation relating to religion;
- marriage to evade immigration laws;
- concealment of an intent not to cohabit or have sexual relations; and
- concealment of an intent to avoid assuming the duties of a marital relationship.
Some of recognized subjects of concealment that usually do not support annulment are:
- concealment of parenthood or premarital unchastity;
- concealment of non-pregnancy;
- false vows of love and affection;
- concealment or misrepresentation as to previous marital status; and
- concealment as to a party’s true condition in life.