By Michael Franklin

In Massachusetts, anyone who is no longer happy in their marriage can get a divorce for just about any reason. However, there are some cases where the marriage should not be legally recognized in the first place. In these situations, an annulment may be the best option. Understanding the annulment process in Massachusetts can help determine if this is an option for you to consider.

Who Qualifies
In general terms, couples qualify for an annulment in Massachusetts based on social or religious reasons. Some of the most common reasons for granting an annulment over a divorce include:

  • Marrying a close relative.
  • Fraud.
  • Impotence in one party.
  • Mental incompetence.
  • Presence of a hidden contagious disease.
  • One party is already married.
  • One party is underage and unable to consent.
  • Coercion.

As long as you can prove one of these situations, you may be granted an annulment. However, some of these situations have additional requirements, and consulting with an experienced family law attorney may be your best option. If your situation doesn’t fall into one of these primary categories, you may still consult with an attorney to find out if you qualify.

How Do You Get an Annulment?
If you have determined you qualify for an annulment in Massachusetts, the next step is to retain an attorney to file a Complaint for  Annulment on your behalf. Either spouse in the marriage can file one. The guardian of one spouse can also file in certain situations, especially in regard to an underage spouse or mental incompetence. The complaint form will include basic information, including the names and addresses of both parties, the date and location of the marriage, names and ages of children and other information, such as the annulment reason and whether child support and custody is necessary.

After filing this complaint, the other party must be served and a court date will be set. At this court date, the party who filed is responsible for showing evidence of why the annulment should be granted. The judge will make the final decision as to whether the annulment is granted.

What Happens after the Annulment?
Once the judge has granted the annulment, it is as if the marriage never existed from a legal standpoint. Neither party needs to state they are divorced on paperwork. However, the rest of the process works much like a divorce. All property is divided between the two parties and child support and custody is determined. Children are still considered legitimate, except in cases where the couple is closely related.

Understanding the annulment process in Massachusetts will help couples determine if this is the best course of action in their marriage. Most marriages will not qualify for an annulment, but if your case does, it is important to talk to an experienced family law lawyer immediately. Some of the reasons require a strict timeline of events, making it essential to properly follow the process.