What’s the Difference Between Annulment and Divorce in Maine?

What's the Difference Between Annulment and Divorce in Maine

Annulment and divorce are quite different concepts in Maine. Whereas most people understand that a divorce is a legal process that ends a marriage, annulment is less well understood.

Essentially, annulling a marriage means that no valid marriage ever existed and it is expunged from the records.

Let’s take a closer look at your options with annulment and divorce in Maine…

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What are the grounds for an annulment in Maine?

In one respect, the processes of annulling a marriage and divorce are the same: you must have legal grounds (reasons) to successfully apply for either in Maine.

For a marriage to be annulled, the following grounds are valid:

  • The spouses are related as first cousins or closer
  • One of the spouses is under the legal age for marriage in Maine (generally 18)
  • One of the spouses had another living spouse at the time of marriage
  • One of the spouses is mentally ill or has mental retardation (to the level of not comprehending the meaning of marriage)
  • One of the spouses defrauded the other into getting married (rare cases)
  • One of the spouses is impotent (rare cases)

While these rules may seem clear-cut, there are some “gray areas”. For instance, if first cousins or closer relatives undergo genetic counseling with a doctor and decide to marry, the marriage may be valid and cannot later be annulled.

Also, the legal age of marriage in Maine is 18 but if a 16- or 17-year-old gets parental consent, the marriage will be valid. For a person under the age of 16 to be married in Maine, parental consent and court approval are necessary — if this was properly provided, the marriage cannot later be annulled.

What are the grounds for divorce in Maine?

Maine is one of the states that allows both “at-fault” and “no-fault” divorces. The majority of divorces here are no-fault but at-fault divorces can be advantageous if the plaintiff can successfully prove fault.

Most no-fault divorces simply cite “irreconcilable differences” in the marriage as the reason for the divorce. This means that you can no longer live together and there is no chance of you getting back together — this is usually sufficient.  No blame for the breakdown of the relationship needs to be established.

To be granted an at-fault divorce, you will need to prove one of the following:

  • Adultery
  • Extreme cruelty
  • Impotence
  • Continued desertion (i.e., for three consecutive years before filing for divorce)
  • A habit of intoxication from alcohol or drugs
  • The failure to provide suitable support
  • Cruel and abusive treatment
  • Incapacitation of one spouse (with a permanent guardian appointed)

For both at-fault and no-fault divorces, you must also meet Maine’s residency requirements as follows:

  • You are married and have lived in Maine for six months or longer, or
  • You are a Maine resident and were married in Maine, or
  • You are a Maine resident and were living in Maine when the cause of divorce arose, or
  • Your spouse is a Maine resident
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How do I get an annulment in Maine?

To apply for an annulment in Maine, the plaintiff (the person seeking the annulment) must first file a “Complaint for Annulment”. This must be done either in the district court for the county where your spouse lives or in the county where you have lived for at least 60 days.

In the Complaint for Annulment, the plaintiff must confirm the following information:

  • Which spouse has lived in the county (and for how long)
  • The date of the marriage
  • Whether any children were born from the marriage
  • The grounds for annulment

After the plaintiff files the complaint, the spouse (defendant) must be served a copy. If both spouses agree that the marriage should be annulled and there are legal grounds to do so, the process is generally quite straightforward.

However, if there is a dispute, the judge will need to decide if the marriage should be annulled. If so, a signed annulment order will be produced.

What are the options for getting a divorce in Maine?

Like with an annulment, the process of getting a divorce in Maine can be relatively straightforward if both spouses agree — but if there are disputes and conflict (which are quite common), the process can be more complex and time-consuming.

Generally, there are several options available to divorcing couples, as follows:

If the divorce is uncontested (both spouses agree on the need to divorce and the terms of separation), you may be able to manage the process yourselves. You simply file the paperwork with the court stating the relevant facts and the divorce will normally be granted relatively quickly and affordably. You may not even have to appear before a judge.

Sometimes, the divorce process can be managed online. These services can provide advice from attorneys and forms to be submitted online.

Beware, though! Sometimes, divorces that start amicably and with the full agreement of both spouses develop issues that can derail the process. Alternative dispute resolution methods may then be required to complete the divorce.

If spouses cannot agree on certain issues in the divorce, such as property division, child custody, parenting or spousal support, mediation may be the best option. This is where the spouses meet with an independent third party, who is trained in facilitating agreements in disputes.

The final decision will be made by the spouses — not the mediator. If the couple can agree on terms, the mediator or a divorce attorney can draw up the written agreement to submit to the court for approval.

A collaborative divorce is where both spouses hire separate lawyers and, usually, after a series of meetings between the spouses and their lawyers, an agreement is hammered out.

Like with mediation, there needs to be a spirit of cooperation and negotiation for a collaborative approach to work. The final decisions on all matters remain with the spouses rather than a judge.

With arbitration, a neutral third party (often a private judge) will listen to both sides before issuing a legally binding ruling.

The main difference between arbitration and mediation is that, with arbitration, the decision is taken out of the spouses’ hands. The main advantages of arbitration over litigation are that it is normally less costly and the details remain private rather than public.

If none of the above alternative dispute resolution methods is successful in resolving outstanding divorce matters, litigation is the only option left.

You will need a different lawyer for this process if you have been through the collaborative divorce approach and it hasn’t worked.

Even with a litigated divorce, a judge will attempt to facilitate a settlement without a trial and you will be encouraged to negotiate to save time and money.

If you’re in the process of separating or need a marriage annulled, speak to an experienced family attorney at The Maine Divorce Group during an initial consultation.

Call 207-230-6884 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.


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Divorce is a highly emotional and stressful experience for most people. But you don’t have to face this challenge alone. Having a strong divorce attorney in your corner can help ensure that you and your children walk away from this process with the best opportunities available for future success and happiness.