Many people are unclear about the real differences between a divorce and an annulment, and which is the best option for them. In reality, it is difficult to get a marriage annulled and most relationships that do not meet the narrow legal grounds for an annulment are left with the only option being divorce. For some, however, an annulment may be an option.
An annulment means that the marriage never existed, as opposed to a divorce which recognizes a valid marriage and terminates it. Under Utah Code Section 30-1-17.1, a couple can seek an annulment if (1) the marriage was between close relatives who are not permitted to marry, for example, a brother and sister or father and daughter; (2) one party to the marriage is under either 14 or 16 years of age, depending on when the marriage took place (marriages before May 1999 can be annulled if one party was under 14, and marriages after May 1999 can be annulled if one party was under 16); (3) one party was under 18 and married without parental consent; and (4) one party to the marriage was legally married to someone else and the divorce was not yet final. These are the ONLY reasons recognized by Utah statute, however, the Courts have also recognized some other reasons that might be grounds for an annulment, including fraud, misrepresentation, or failure to consummate the marriage.
Unlike some states, Utah does not have a time element in its statute on annulment, so the duration of a marriage is not a factor that alone justifies an annulment. In order for fraud to be grounds for an annulment, it has to be directly related to the marriage and extreme enough that had the other party known, they would not have gotten married. Cases with issues like these are all very fact specific and have to be presented to a judge to determine whether an annulment is appropriate.
Further, even though getting a marriage annulled has the same effect as if the marriage never happened, child support, visitation, property and debt division can all be considered during the proceedings. Though the process for getting an annulment can begin the same as the process for getting a divorce, getting an annulment is much more difficult and judge’s rulings differ case to case, so consider seeking the help of an attorney if you think that getting an annulment is something you want to explore, or to determine whether or not it is an option in your case.