Annulment vs. Divorce in Arizona
Many people ask about the difference between an annulment vs. divorce in Arizona. A divorce is the dissolution of the marital status between two legally married spouses. In a divorce case, the Arizona court will enter a judgment rendering each party a single person, will divide the parties’ debts and assets, will issue child custody and support orders and, in some cases, may award alimony.
An annulment in Arizona, however, nullifies the marriage as if the marriage had never taken place. Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-101 prohibits some marriages in Arizona. Specifically, that statute provides that a marriage between the following people are void and prohibited under Arizona law:
- Marriages between parents and their children
- Marriages between grandparents and their grandchildren
- Marriages between brothers and sisters
- Marriages between uncles and nieces
- Marriages between aunts and nephews
- Marriages between first cousins, except if one of the cousins is over the age of 65 one of the cousins is unable to bear children and a Judge from the Superior Court approves the marriage before the marriage occurs
There are also reasons that, although not rendering the marriage legally void, may allow the court discretion to make the marriage voidable for purposes of entering an annulment of the marriage. The Arizona Court of Appeals has upheld a trial judge’s decision to declare an otherwise legal marriage voidable and, hence, grant an annulment declaring the marriage void.
Some such examples occurred in the case of Medlin v. Medlin. The Arizona Court of Appeals in Medlin held that a marriage is similar to a contract requiring both parties to have the mental capacity to understand the contract before entering into the contract such that a spouse who was incapable of understanding the nature of the quasi-contractual agreement to marry may have the marriage annulled.
The Arizona Supreme Court in the case of Jackson v. Industrial Commission held that false representations of love and affection coupled with a fraudulent intent to deprive the other spouse of his or her property provided sufficient basis to annul the marriage in Arizona.
In yet another Arizona Court of Appeals decision in the case of State Compensation Fund vs. Foughty and Industrial Commission. The court of appeals held that a person with deeply held religious convictions who marries a person she believed to share the same religious beliefs could have her marriage annulled because there was an absence of a meeting of the minds regarding their religious views and practices.
The Arizona Supreme Court has gone as far to hold in the case of Southern Pacific C). vs. Industrial Commission that an annulment of a void or voidable marriage is permissible even if the same facts would provide a basis for a dissolution of the marriage.
The trial court still has the power to divide the parties assets and debts and to issue child custody and child support orders if the marriage if the court annuls the marriage, according to Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-302.
How Much Does it Cost to Get an Annulment in Arizona
The cost of getting an annulment in Arizona are not significantly different than getting a divorce in Arizona. The reason is that in both an annulment and a divorce the court has to divide the parties’ debts, assets, issues orders concerning the care of the children, and determine the subject of child support. Another difference is that the court can award alimony (i.e., “spousal maintenance”) to a spouse in a divorce, but may not award alimony to a spouse if the court annuls the marriage.
The only exception to the idea that the costs of an annulment and a divorce are very similar surrounds the additional time it will take your attorney to prove that a basis exists for an annulment. A divorce can be entered by a judge simply by one spouse testifying the marriage is irretrievably broken. To establish the foundation for an annulment, the party seeking the annulment must prove the marriage was void, to begin with, or is voidable due to, for example, fraudulent inducement to enter into the marriage.
How Long Do You Have to Be Married to Get an Annulment
There is no specific time limit to be married to obtain an annulment in Arizona. However, you do have to act promptly once you become aware of the basis for the annulment. Failure to seek an annulment after having had knowledge of the basis of the annulment could result in the court finding you ratified the otherwise voidable marriage by staying in the marriage. Void marriages, on the other hand, which are prohibited by law are voidable at any time.
If you need an attorney to pursue a divorce or an annulment, please feel free to contact one of our attorneys at Hildebrand Law, PC. Call us at (480)305-8300.