Annulment & Prohibited Marriages in Maine
Many people are unaware of the fact that there is more than one way to formally end a marriage. Everyone is familiar with divorce, but many people are unfamiliar with annulment. The only real similarity between divorce and annulment, however, is that both of these processes result in the termination of a marriage; beyond that, the similarities end, and there are many important differences.
In this post, we’re going to provide a comprehensive treatment of the annulment procedure here in the State of Maine. Just like the divorce process, the process of annulment in Maine is unique to this state.
Other states may have similar features to their annulment processes, but they may have differences as well.
After discussing the key difference between divorce and annulment, we will move onto the grounds for annulment in Maine.
The grounds for annulment are a critical part of the overall annulment process. Next, we will discuss the procedure of annulment in detail, and then move onto some issues involved when parents obtain an annulment.
As a general matter, annulment tends to be less complex than divorce. There are several reasons for this. One reason is because spouses seeking annulment usually tend to do so in the early stages of the marriage, and this usually means fewer children and less marital property.
If spouses don’t have children, and don’t have a great deal of shared marital property, then the separation can happen much more quickly.
If spouses do have children and do have substantial marital property, these things can become hot points of litigation, and this can prolong a separation.
If you’re interested in moving forward with an annulment case, you are strongly advised to consult with an experienced attorney.
A qualified and experienced attorney can help guide you through the process and ensure that everything is done as smoothly as possible. For more information, contact the Maine Divorce Group today.
Give us a call and we can provide you with an accurate assessment of your situation.
Grounds for Annulment in the State of Maine
Curious readers might wonder: if annulment accomplishes the same result as divorce, why do most people obtain a divorce rather than an annulment? The reason for this is because annulment is only possible under certain circumstances.
In order to have eligibility for annulment, there must be sufficient “grounds,” or reasons on which to base the annulment.
The State of Maine only recognizes a total of 6 grounds, and certain of those grounds also have additional requirements which must be met. Simply put, if spouses don’t have grounds for annulment, they can’t obtain one.
Here is a quick overview of the 6 grounds for annulment here in Maine:
- One of the spouses is impotent
- One of the spouses in under the legal age for marriage
- One spouse is either mentally ill or suffers from mental retardation
- The marriage occurred as a result of fraud
- Bigamy – one spouse had another spouse at the time of the marriage
- Incest – the spouses are too closely related to each other
As mentioned, some of these grounds have other considerations which must be accounted for. Incest, for instance, normally means marriage between those who are first cousins or closer.
If two people marry and they are first cousins or closer, this is considered an invalid marriage.
However, there is an important exception: if the parties are first cousins, but receive counseling from a doctor with expertise in genetics, then they may be able to have a valid marriage.
Out of all the grounds for annulment, the ground of fraud is by far the most difficult to sustain. In the context of annulment, fraud basically means deception regarding a critical aspect of the marriage. In other words, the fraud needs to be “at the core” of the marriage itself.
For example, if one spouses tells the other spouse that he or she possesses a certain business, this could potentially pass scrutiny. Proving that this fraud was an essential aspect of the marriage decision, however, would still be challenging.
The ground of mental illness or mental incapability is also context-dependent. If the person who has the mental incapability cannot understand the concept of marriage, then the marriage may be invalid and subject to annulment. However, if the mental incapability didn’t interfere with the spouse’s understanding of marriage, then the marriage may still be valid.
Likewise, a person’s age may also present complications.
A person who is not yet 18, but is 16 or 17, can create a valid marriage, but only with prior parental consent. If the person is under 16, he or she can still create a valid marriage, but the prior consent of a parent and the court are required.
The Procedure of Obtaining an Annulment
The procedure of annulment follows an established order, just like to does with traditional divorce. The first step is to complete and submit a “Complaint for Annulment.” This document must be submitted in the local court in which the petitioner has resided for a minimum of 60 days prior to the submission.
The complaint must contain certain basic information about the spouses, the marriage, and the grounds for annulment. For instance, the complaint must include the date of the alleged invalid marriage, whether any children were conceived, the grounds for annulment, and so forth.
In the initial complaint, you can provide detail regarding the grounds for annulment, but remember that you will have an opportunity to present the detail in the later proceeding.
Just as with a traditional divorce, you will need to serve your spouse with a copy of the complaint after you submit it to the court. The service requirements also mirror those for divorces, which means that you will be able to serve the complaint even if you can’t physically locate your spouse.
Depending on the situation, you might consider hiring a third-party server. After the other spouse has been served with the complaint, you will be given a court date.
On your date in court, you will have the opportunity to present your case regarding your cited grounds for annulment. As mentioned, depending on which ground you cite, this may be quite difficult. But, if the judge agrees that your cited grounds were adequate, then the judge will enter a decree of annulment.
This means that you were never legally married.
In some cases, annulment may also be possible if both spouses agree that the marriage was never valid. In other words, when both spouses are willing to declare that they never created a valid marriage, the court may enter the decree of annulment.
Annulment Involving Parents
The impact of annulment becomes significantly complicated by the presence of children. In some cases, couples have children after they execute an “invalid” marriage which might later be annulled. In these situations, the events which unfold after the annulment can be difficult to predict.
The reason for this is because the role of the court isn’t the same as it would be under normal circumstances involving a divorce. Normally, court involvement is automatic when it comes to parental issues (i.e., parental rights and responsibilities), but that isn’t the case with annulled marriages.
The Court May Award Parental Rights & Responsibilities for Minor Children
The court may step in and determine custody issues when spouses have children. But, this is not done automatically. Under the current law, the code simply states that the court “may make an order” awarding parental rights and responsibilities in the event that the spouses have a child. In practice, this means that courts will defer to prearranged agreements more often than not when spouses obtain annulment. In other words, courts will tend to avoid stepping in unless there is no prior agreement in place.
Basically, the court has discretion when it comes to awarding parental rights and responsibilities, but this isn’t normally the case. Of course, parents can also petition to court for assistance with parental rights and responsibilities after annulment.
Annulment & Parental Financial Responsibility
Parents have the same financial obligations to support their children after annulment as they would after divorce. The court will follow the same procedure it uses to determine the support payment amounts for divorce cases.
As readers may recall from previous articles, the State of Maine uses the so-called “Income Shares Model” to determine child support obligations. This means that the non-custodial parent will make regular payments to the custodial parent, and the amount will be based on the proportional share of the aggregate gross income.
So, if the non-custodial parent contributes 60% toward the aggregate total, then the non-custodial parent will make a payment which amounts to 60% of the court-determined support obligation. The support obligation is determined by a fixed formula which accounts for the number of children shared between the spouses.
Contact the Maine Divorce Group for More Information
Annulment is a complex topic. As you can see, even pinning down the circumstances under which annulment might be possible can be challenging.
The grounds for annulment, as we saw, are often highly dependent on the particular context, and so a certain case might appear to have adequate grounds but upon closer examination it doesn’t. Annulment cases which involve children are more complex than those which don’t, just like with traditional divorce cases.
However, annulment cases involving children are also handled differently, and so there is more unpredictability here than there is with normal divorce. When it comes to annulment, one of the key points to keep in mind is that the State of Maine views these marriages as basically non-existent; in other words, it’s as though no marriage ever took place, although any children born during the marriage are still considered legitimate.
This is a key point in understanding how these cases are treated and viewed under the law.
If you need assistance with annulment, reach out to a qualified attorney. Deciphering all the complexities of annulment is far from easy.
An experienced and qualified attorney can guide you through the process and ensure that you have a solid chance when you attempt to annul the marriage. Suppose you want to invalidate your marriage because of an alleged fraud. You would suffer a whole of lot in the form of lost time and energy if you initiated the process only to find that your alleged fraud was insufficient down the line.
As mentioned, proving fraud in this context can be very difficult.
This is also true when a few of the other grounds for annulment. Consulting with an attorney can therefore be instrumental in avoiding losses of time, energy and money.
For more information, get in touch with the Maine Divorce Group today by calling 207-494-2779.
Call 207-230-6597 or contact us online to schedule a consult with one of our highly skilled family law attorneys today.
We serve many clients, just like you, across Maine in Cumberland, York, Sagadahoc, & Lincoln Counties.
Contact The Maine Divorce Group today
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