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Marriage Annulment: Can It Be Stopped?

Marriage annulment is a process that is mainly important for Catholics, although some non-Catholics who feel they were never fully married may seek a legal annulment.

An annulment is not like a divorce. It is harder to get because certain criteria have to be proved. Basically, instead of saying that you want to end your marriage, you have to show that the marriage was never valid in the first place. This means that it may be possible to stop a marriage annulment, even in situations where a divorce would be granted almost automatically.

The criteria for an annulment in the courts are quite straightforward, although they can vary from country to country and state to state.

Typically, a marriage annulment may be granted for any one of the following reasons:

1. One or both of the partners was too young to be legally married.

2. There is a close blood relationship between the partners, such that marriage would be illegal.

3. One or both of the partners was still legally married to somebody else when the marriage took place.

4. One or both of the partners was permanently impotent (unable to have sex) at the time of the marriage.

5. One or both of the partners was not mentally competent to enter into a marriage contract.

6. The marriage contract was entered into fraudulently, e.g. one partner concealed a criminal history or a case of a sexually transmitted disease.

7. One or both of the partners did not give their consent freely (e.g. if they entered the marriage because of threats).

In the Catholic church, there are a few more criteria. For example a marriage annulment may be given if one or both of the partners was in holy orders or had taken a vow of chastity; or if one partner refused to have children.

So a marriage annulment is not like divorce. It is not something that people can or should file for when they want out of a regular marriage. A person needs to be able to claim that the marriage was not valid, and that they were never properly married at all.

Sometimes people will seek an annulment of a marriage in order that they can marry again as if it was their first marriage. The reason that they do this is often because they want their second marriage to be recognized by the Catholic church, which does not approve of divorce and remarriage.

In this case one or both partners may claim that the marriage was never valid. They might claim, for example, that they were mentally ill at the time and therefore not able to give informed consent to the marriage. This can happen even after many years of marriage and the birth of children.

When one partner wants an annulment in this kind of situation, it can be devastating for the other partner and the children. The situation becomes as though they had been living together without being married; the children could be considered illegitimate.

For this reason, contested annulments are fairly common. The spouse who disagrees (the respondent) can put their case. If an annulment is granted by the Catholic church, the respondent still has the right of appeal.

If you are in the position of wanting to prevent or overturn an annulment, you should see a lawyer right away. It is a complicated process and you will need legal advice. It is possible to stop a marriage annulment but everything depends on the circumstances of the individual case.