If you – or someone you know – are looking for support to legally end a marriage in Texas, then you may have questions about whether to pursue an annulment or a divorce.
The fundamental difference between an annulment vs divorce is that an annulment is based on the determination that the marriage was never valid, to begin with. Therefore, a court can rule that the marriage is void and should be dissolved.
Comparatively, a divorce is based on the idea that the marriage was valid throughout its duration, but now circumstances have dictated that the marriage should be dissolved. This introduces issues such as how to divide property and assets, the custody of children (if there are children through the marriage), child support obligations, visitation rights, and other issues.
Texas courts are called to apply the law when making a determination of whether a marriage should be annulled or whether the couple should go through the typical divorce process to end the marriage legally. Let’s examine the factors for both options.
Annulment vs Divorce: What Can Prompt an Annulment?
The Texas Family Code has outlined the primary reasons a person can pursue an annulment of their marriage. The grounds for annulment break down into the following categories.
1. One of the parties is under the age of 18. A Texas court can annul a marriage if one of the parties was under 18 years old and entered into the marriage without the consent of their parents or consent of a court order.
However, a suit to annul the marriage cannot be filed by the underage person’s parent(s), managing conservator, or guardian after the individual’s 18th birthday. In other words, the option to pursue an underage annulment is disallowed once the party enters into adulthood.
2. The court exercises its discretion. A Texas court does have the ability to grant the annulment of an underage marriage at its discretion. If choosing to exercise its discretion, the court is required to consider the welfare of both parties in the marriage. For example, if the female is pregnant and entered into marriage because of pregnancy.
3. The marriage was agreed to while under the influence. A marriage can be annulled if either party was under the influence of alcohol or narcotics at the time of the marriage, making them unable to understand what they were consenting to. Or, the court could annul the marriage if one party has not voluntarily lived with the other person since the effects of alcohol or narcotics ended.
4. One of the parties is impotent. Concerning impotence, the marriage can be annulled for three distinct reasons. The reasons include one of the parties is permanently impotent for “physical or mental reasons,” the other party did not know of the impotence at the time of the marriage, or the other party has not voluntarily lived with the impotent party since learning of this development.
5. The marriage was established on false grounds. A Texas court can annul the marriage if one party used “fraud, duress, or force” to convince the other party to enter into marriage. The marriage could also be annulled if the frauded person has not voluntarily lived with the offending party since the discovery of fraud or since the hostile events occurred.
6. One of the parties has been mentally incapacitated. A marriage can be annulled if it’s discovered that one party did not have the mental capacity to agree to the marriage. Or, one of the parties could discover after the wedding ceremony that the other party is mentally incapacitated; therefore, they can petition for the marriage to be annulled.
This is a complicated grounds for annulling a divorce that requires expert legal support to make a compelling argument to the court.
7. A prior divorce was concealed. A marriage could be annulled if either party was divorced from a third party but did not wait for the mandated 30-day waiting period before proceeding with the marriage ceremony. Or, one of the parties could pursue an annulment upon learning after the ceremony that the other party was recently divorced.
This is one of the most common issues related to an annulment in Texas.
8. The parties did not wait 72 hours. In Texas, a marriage cannot be officially recognized within a 72-hour window after the marriage license is issued – unless there is a court order explicitly allowing this. Therefore, a marriage could be annulled if the wedding ceremony took place in the 72 hours following the issuance of the license.
Overall, an annulment is based on the idea that a true marriage relationship was not established. This differs from a divorce, which is based on the idea that two people entered into a valid spousal relationship at some point, but now they are seeking to end the marriage.
Annulment vs. Divorce: Grounds for Divorce
The Texas Family Code recognizes a distinct set of circumstances for a divorce that differ from an annulment.
1. The marriage no longer functions. A no-fault divorce could be granted in Texas if the marriage has become insupportable because of conflicts or other differences that have destroyed the marital relationship. A key addition to this grounds for divorce is that there is no reasonable expectation for the parties to reconcile.
2. Cruelty has created insupportability. A court could determine that one spouse’s cruel treatment toward the other spouse has created a marriage that is unable to continue. The court may grant a divorce in favor of the spouse that is on the receiving end of the cruel treatment that has made it impossible for them to continue living together.
3. Adultery is involved. The law in Texas is very clear that a court may grant a divorce on the grounds of adultery. The court has the ability to grant the divorce in favor of the non-adulterous spouse if the other spouse has committed adultery.
4. Conviction of a felony. Divorce can be granted if one party is convicted of a felony, has been imprisoned for at least one year, or has not been pardoned for their crime. However, a divorce cannot be granted if the offender was convicted by testimony from the other spouse.
5. One spouse has abandoned the marriage. Divorce can be granted if one spouse left the other spouse with the intention of abandoning them or if the absent spouse has remained away from the other spouse for at least one year.
6. There is long-term physical distance. A court is able to grant a divorce on the grounds of the parties not living together for at least three years. The court can grant the divorce in favor of either spouse in this situation.
7. Long-term confinement to a mental hospital. Divorce can be granted if one spouse has been confined to a mental hospital in the state of Texas or another U.S. state for at least three years. Alternatively, divorce could be granted if the spouse’s mental disorder is so serious that it is unlikely for the spouse to recover — or there is a strong possibility of a future relapse.
Find Legal Support With an Annulment or Divorce in Texas
Whether you or someone you know needs to pursue an annulment or divorce, I can provide expert legal support. I will review the situation, help answer specific questions about an annulment vs. divorce, and provide representation in court.
I practice family law exclusively so that I can provide the highest level of legal support for my clients. Over the past decade, I have helped countless individuals in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and Harris County work through the dissolution of their marriage to arrive at the best possible outcome.
If you or another party lives in one of these Texas counties, then contact me today to discuss the situation. Call my offices at 281-944-5485 or 979-267-7660 to get started on the case. I’m here to help!