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What is an Annulment Vs. a Divorce in Arizona

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Annulment Vs. Divorce-How a Legal Paraprofessional Can Help

When it comes to ending a marriage in Arizona, there are two main options to consider: annulment and divorce. While both processes result in the dissolution of a marriage, they differ in terms of their legal implications and requirements.

An annulment is a legal decree that declares a marriage null and void, as if it never existed.

This option is typically reserved for marriages that are deemed to be void from the beginning, such as those involving fraud, bigamy, or lack of consent. On the other hand, a divorce is a legal process that ends a valid marriage and addresses issues such as property division, spousal support, and child custody.

We will cover the following topics

The Difference Between Divorce and Annulment of Marriage in Arizona

Divorce and annulment are both legal methods to dissolve a marriage in Arizona, but they differ significantly in their definitions, legal implications, and the procedures involved. 

Divorce recognizes that a legally valid marriage has ended. It typically involves division of marital assets, determination of child custody and support, and may include spousal maintenance.

In contrast, an annulment declares a marriage legally void or invalid from its inception. Essentially, it erases the marriage as though it never existed legally.

What is a Void vs. Voidable Marriage

In Arizona, the concepts of void and voidable marriages are crucial in understanding the legal status of a union under family law. These terms determine whether a marriage can be annulled or must go through divorce proceedings.

Void Marriages: These are marriages that are considered invalid from the very beginning. Under Arizona law, such marriages are never legally valid due to inherent issues that directly contravene legal requirements for marriage. The primary examples of void marriages include:

  • Bigamy: A marriage where one spouse is already legally married to another person at the time of the subsequent marriage is automatically void. There is no need for a court decree to annul a bigamous marriage; it is inherently invalid.
  • Incestuous Marriages: Marriages between close relatives, such as siblings or parent and child, which are explicitly prohibited by law, are void from the outset.

Voidable Marriages: Unlike void marriages, voidable marriages are considered legally valid until they are annulled by a court. These marriages require legal intervention to be dissolved because they possess defects that are not immediately disqualifying but can be grounds for annulment if challenged by one of the parties. Typical situations leading to voidable marriages include:

  • Age: If a person marries under the legal age of 18 in Arizona without parental consent or court approval, the marriage is voidable. It remains valid until the underage spouse or their guardian seeks an annulment.
  • Mental Incapacity: Marriages entered into when one spouse is unable to understand the nature of the marriage contract due to mental illness or intoxication are voidable. These can be annulled if action is taken after recovering capacity.
  • Fraud or Deception: If one spouse has been tricked into marriage by significant deceit regarding an essential aspect of the marriage (like the desire for children or the disclosure of a serious health condition), the marriage is voidable.
  • Duress: Marriages entered into under coercion or severe pressure are voidable. The coerced spouse must file for annulment once they are free from the duress.

The distinction between void and voidable marriages fundamentally affects how legal proceedings are carried out. Void marriages are automatically illegal and do not require judicial action to be recognized as invalid.

In contrast, voidable marriages must be actively annulled through legal processes to address the defects in consent or capacity.

How Long Do You Have to Annul a Marriage in Arizona

It’s important to know the difference between void and voidable marriages when exploring annulment timelines in Arizona. These concepts determine the reasons for annulment and how quickly one should act to end the marriage.

Void Marriages:

  • No Time Limit: Void marriages, such as those involving bigamy or incest, are considered legally invalid from the outset. Because these marriages are inherently unlawful, there is technically no time limit to initiate an annulment. However, it is generally advisable to address these issues promptly to avoid any legal complications or uncertainties.

Voidable Marriages:

  • Age: If a person entered into a marriage under the age of 18 without the necessary legal consents, the marriage is voidable. The annulment must be sought before the underage spouse reaches the age of 18 or shortly thereafter, typically within a reasonable time frame after reaching legal majority.
  • Mental Incapacity or Influence of Substances: The annulment must be filed within a reasonable period after the person regains mental capacity or the influence of substances has ended. This emphasizes the importance of the affected individual’s ability to consent freely and knowingly at the time of the marriage.
  • Fraud or Deception: For marriages based on fraud, the annulment must be filed within one year of discovering the fraudulent deception that induced one spouse to enter the marriage. 
  • Duress: Similar to fraud, annulments based on duress must be pursued within a reasonable period after the cessation of the coercive conditions. This ensures that the affected spouse can act out of their own volition and not under external pressure.

Each scenario illustrates how void and voidable marriages influence the timing for seeking an annulment. The set time limits ensure a fair chance to take action, taking into account the conditions at the start of the marriage.

For those in such circumstances, timely and effective legal advice from a family law paraprofessional is essential. They can help manage the legal aspects, ensuring that any move to annul a marriage is justified and prompt.

How to Get an Annulment in Arizona

Seeking an annulment in Arizona requires a legal process that declares a marriage null and void, as though it never existed. This section provides a step-by-step guide for those who think their marriage qualifies for this specific type of marital dissolution.

  1. Determine If You Have Valid Grounds for Annulment: First, assess whether your situation falls under the grounds for annulment in Arizona, such as bigamy, fraud, age, mental incapacity, duress, or other conditions that render the marriage void or voidable. 
  2. Prepare and File the Petition for Annulment: You will need to prepare a legal document, known as a Petition for Annulment, which must be filed with the Superior Court in the county where either spouse resides. This petition should clearly state the grounds for annulment and include all necessary personal information about both spouses and any children from the marriage.
  3. Serve the Petition to Your Spouse: Once the petition is filed, Arizona law requires that the other spouse be formally notified of the annulment action. This is done by serving them with the petition. Service must be conducted according to Arizona’s rules for the service of process, ensuring the spouse has an opportunity to respond.
  4. Wait for a Response: After being served, the spouse has a specific time period, typically 20 to 30 days, to file a response. If the spouse contests the annulment, the process may involve legal arguments and evidence presented in court.
  5. Court Hearing and Judgment: If the annulment is contested, or if the court requires further clarification, a hearing will be scheduled. During the hearing, both parties can present their arguments and evidence. The judge will then decide whether the marriage meets the legal criteria for annulment. If the judge grants the annulment, a court order will be issued declaring the marriage null and void.
  6. Finalize the Annulment: Once the annulment is granted, the court will issue a final decree of annulment. This legal document officially ends the marriage and restores the parties to their single status, effectively stating that the marriage was never legally valid.

Legal and Administrative Considerations: It’s important to remember that an annulment can also affect division of property, child custody, and other legal matters. Although an annulled marriage is considered never to have existed, issues like child support and custody will still need to be resolved in the best interests of any children involved.

Stephanie Villalobos, LP

Get Help From a Family Law Paraprofessional

Seeking an annulment in Arizona can be effectively managed with the help of a family law paraprofessional from De Novo Law. These experts specialize in Arizona family law, providing comprehensive support from assessing the validity of your case to handling all documentation and court representations.

Their thorough understanding ensures that every legal form is accurately completed and all procedures are followed correctly. They are also skilled in addressing related issues such as child custody and property division. The team at De Novo Law is committed to offering personalized legal services that meet the specific needs of each client, helping you through the annulment process with professionalism and detailed attention.

For more information about our services or to schedule a consultation, you can also reach us directly at (480) 725-2200 .

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DISCLAIMER: The content of this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice.  De Novo Law, LLC and its Legal Paraprofessionals are not attorneys and are not authorized to provide legal advice or representation beyond the areas and scope of practice for which license is held.  The transmission or receipt of any electronic correspondence or information does not create a legal paraprofessional-client relationship.


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