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Getting a Marriage Annulled

Getting a Marriage Annulled

By Maury D. Beaulier, Esq.

What is an annulment?
What is the basis for an annulment?
Who may annul?
Miscellaneous Annulment cases


In our modern world, an annulment tends to be more a creature of religion than of law.  Annulments are rarely granted and when they are, very specific circumstances must exist. Often people believe that they may annul a marriage simply because it was of a very short duration.  That is not the case. To annul a marriage, a person must demonstrate that the marriage is void because it is prohibited by the laws of the State  or is voidable because the intent to enter into a civil contract was not present at the time that the parties married.    

What is an Annulment?

Marriage is a civil contract between a man and a woman.  As a result, the contract is legally binding so long as the requisite elements of the contract were present when the parties married.  If the elements of the contract were not present, the marriage may be annulled.  That means, the marriage is treated as if it never existed.   For all purposes, it is considered null and void. 

What is the effect of an Annulment?

In some states, an annulment may result in the harsh result of extinguishing interests in property acquired during the purported marriage.  In such states, each party would be entitled to the property in their own name.  This is not true under Minnesota law. 

In fact, Minnesota recognizes the concept of a "putative spouse." Any person who has cohabited with another under a good faith belief that the person was legally married acquires the same rights conferred by the divorce statute including   property rights and the right to spousal maintenance.  These rights terminate when a person discovers that they may not be legally married.  It is important to remember that in the case of Bigamy (more than one spouse), the second putative spouse's rights do not supercede the rights acquired of the legal spouse (the first spouse).  However, the Court may apportion property, maintenance, and support rights among the claimants as appropriate "in the circumstances and in the interests of justice."

What is the basis for an Annulment?

An annulment may be granted when a marriage is automatically void under the law for public policy reasons or voidable by one party when certain requisite elements of the marriage contract were not present at the time of the marriage.

        Void Marriages.

A marriage is automatically void and is automatically annulled when it is prohibited by law. Under Minnesota's statutes a lawful marriage may be contracted when the following requisites are met:

  • only between persons of the opposite sex; and
  • only when a license has been obtained as provided by law; and
  •  when the marriage is contracted in the presence of two witnesses;
  •  and solemnized by one authorized, or whom one or both of the parties in good faith believe to be authorized, by law to marry them.

 Any marriage occurring after April 26, 1941, without these elements is considered null and void. Additionally, Minnesota Statutes specifically prohibits a nullifies the following marriage without any decree of dissolution or other legal proceedings :

  • Bigamy. A marriage entered into before the dissolution of an earlier marriage of one of the parties becomes final, as provided in section 518.145 or by the law of the jurisdiction where the dissolution was granted;
  • Interfamily Marriage. A marriage between an ancestor and a descendant, or between a brother and a sister, whether the relationship is by the half or the whole blood or by adoption;
  • Marriage between Close Relatives. A marriage between an uncle and a niece, between an aunt and a nephew, or between first cousins, whether the relationship is by the half or the whole blood, except as to marriages permitted by the established customs of aboriginal cultures; and
  • Same Sex Marriage. A marriage between persons of the same sex,  a marriage entered into by persons of the same sex, either under common law or statute even if the same sex marriage was recognized by another state or foreign jurisdiction.  Any rights granted  by the foreign jurisdiction recognizing the same sex marriage are unenforceable in the state of Minnesota.

        Voidable marriages.

A voidable marriage is one where an annulment is not automatic and must be sought by one of the parties.  Generally, an annulment may be sought by one of the parties to a marriage if the intent to enter into the civil contract of marriage was not present at the time of the marriage, either due to mental illness, intoxication, duress or fraud.  Minnesota Statutes set out the following circumstances under which a marriage may be annulled by Petition:

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