Occasionally, I get asked a question asking if a marriage can be annulled. First, I’ll explain what is an annulled marriage in Tennessee? An annulled marriage is a void marriage, or in another way of saying it, it never happened. It means there was some sort of defect in the marriage “contract” that made it invalid.
Annulment is not the same as a divorce, but there are a lot of similarities. If there are minor children, a parenting plan and support issues need to be determined. Marriage assets and liabilities need to be addressed as well. When dividing up assets and liabilities, Courts objective is to put parties back in the position they were before the marriage which is different from the objective with a divorce. There is no waiting period with an annulment case. Divorce cases in Tennessee have waiting periods of 60 to 90 days depending on if there are children of the marriage. The burden of proof in annulment cases are clear and convincing which is a higher standard than that of a divorce proceeding which is preponderance of the evidence.
What are the grounds for annulment?
- Either party was under the age of 16 when marriage took place.
- Prior existing marriage at the time of the marriage and defendant believed their former spouse was living when getting remarried.
- Any other violation of the marriage act (licensing requirements, etc)
- Refusing to cohabitate or consummate after married
- Mentally incompetent
- Impotency (must have existed prior to marriage)
- Duress (I.E. shotgun wedding)
- Fraud (calculated to induce marriage which requires detrimental reliance...exp. the woman saying she is pregnant when she isn’t so that he will marry her)
- Being married for a limited objective (green card) is not a defense
- Secret pregnancy at time of marriage (where another man is the biological father)
Defenses to the grounds above:
- If married under age and continued to cohabitate until after 18 (ratifying the marriage)
- Consummation of the sexual relations
- If there was evidence of mental incompetence in a will context and there was a ratification during some type of lucid moment
- If the ground was impotence, but the plaintiff had prior knowledge of impotency, it CANNOT be used
- Duress? It can be ratified if the person continues to cohabitate long enough
- Fraud? Cannot rely on fraud if you knew about/found out and continued to cohabitate
The Tennessee statute for annulment is TCA 36-4-119. However, it’s case law that ultimately drives the annulment laws. If you have specific questions as to how any of this relates to your given situation, please contact me, Will Cartwright, at firstname.lastname@example.org