Whereas divorce terminates a marriage, an annulment may outright void a marriage as though it never happened. In contrast to divorce which does not require any specific grounds, seeking an annulment in Pennsylvania is possible with only limited grounds.
There is a common misconception that annulment is a religious formality and requires authorization from a member of the clergy. However, a legal trial is a necessary step in effectively annulling a marriage. Here are some examples of how a petitioner may make a case to attain a formal decree of annulment in Pennsylvania.
Incapacity due to drugs or alcohol
If either spouse was under the influence of drugs or alcohol when the marriage took place, then he or she did not have capacity to enter into the contract of marriage. A petitioner seeking an annulment on this basis must do so within 60 days of the marriage ceremony.
Fraud or duress
A marriage is voidable under Pennsylvania statutory law if a person enters into the marriage by means of fraud, duress, or another type of coercion. The rationale is that the person did not legally consent to the marriage. Nevertheless, any cohabitation after knowledge of fraud amounts to consent.
Incurable impotence at the time of a marriage may be grounds for annulment. However, if a person is aware of his or her spouse’s condition before entering into the marriage, he or she cannot seek an annulment on this basis.
Ultimately, annulling a marriage may involve some evidentiary challenges. It is important to thoroughly review all of the applicable legal requirements prior to pursuing this remedy in court.