What are the Grounds for an Annulment in Pennsylvania?

philadelphia divorce processMany people use the words “divorce” and “annulment” interchangeably, but according to Pennsylvania law, the two words represent very different actions. Where a divorce is a legal dissolution of a contract that recognizes that a marriage occurred and addresses the legal implications of that marriage, an annulment essentially voids the marriage, essentially making it as if it never happened in the first place. That means that there will likely be no division of property and no potential for alimony. It is important to remember that an annulment in the eyes of the state are different from the eyes of a religious body. Being granted a religious annulment from your house of worship does not end your marriage legally in the eyes of the state. The grounds for an annulment in Pennsylvania generally fall into two separate categories: those that are void, and those that are voidable.

Annulments in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, an annulment can be issued for marriages that should the law says should never have taken place in the first place. These include:

  • Cases of bigamy, where either partner was already married before the marriage began
  • Cases of consanguinity, where the parties are related to 2 degrees (siblings, parent and child, first cousins, etc.)
  • Cases in which either party was not legally able to consent to the marriage as a result of incapacity (mental illness, etc.)

Voidable Marriages in Pennsylvania

Under the state’s family law guidance, marriages that fall into this category are legal if both parties want the marriage to continue but can be annulled if either party chooses to do so. These include:

  • Cases in which either party is under 16 and got married without court authorization, or is 16 or 17 and who married without either parental consent or court authorization (only voidable under certain circumstances)
  • Cases in which either party was intoxicated at the time of the marriage (voidable within 60 days of the marriage)
  • Cases in which either party is unable to reproduce and the other party was not aware of this at the time of the marriage
  • Cases of marriage being the result of fraud, duress, coercion or force by the other party

If you believe that your marriage should never have taken place, an annulment may be the best answer for you. To speak with an experienced family law attorney about the options available, contact us today.