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It’s a common misconception that an annulment is a cheap, alternative to a divorce. An annulment can be a problematic process. If you don’t meet the requirements, the court will deny your request. As with any legal claim, it’s best to speak with an attorney to see how you should proceed. At Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC, we understand the complexities associated with family law. Our attorneys in Nashville can help you with your annulment and make sure you get what you desire.

The Difference Between an Annulment and a Divorce

Despite what you may think, an annulment is not the same as a divorce. A divorce legally terminates a valid marriage. However, an annulment invalidates the marriage, proving that it is not a legal union.

To have your marriage annulled in Tennessee, you need to show legal cause of why the marriage is invalid. There are several grounds you can use to prove your cause, such as:

  • One or both spouses were mentally unstable or were unable to understand the nature of the relationship at the time of the marriage.
  • One or both spouses were under the legal age of marriage.
  • The spouses are related and are closer than first cousins.
  • One spouse has more than one living husband or wife during the marriage.
  • A spouse was under duress at the time of the wedding.
  • One spouse defrauded the other into getting married.
  • One spouse is physically unable to have sexual intercourse.
  • One spouse refuses to live with the other or have sexual relations during the marriage.

There are some exceptions to these grounds. For example, you must be the age of 16 to get married in Tennessee. However, if you are under 16 but your marriage received approval from the court, you cannot have the marriage annulled.

The Difference Between an Annulment In Church and In Court

When we think of an annulment, we often believe that the annulment process which allows you to get remarried in some Christian religious institutions is the same thing as the legal annulment process. While both treat the marriage as though it never happened, there are distinct differences.

In the Catholic Church, the diocese instead of a family law court determines if the marriage bond was not a lifelong covenant. Either partner may obtain an annulment if adequate grounds are shown such as maturity, emotional stability, etc. are shown. If the church grants the annulment, both parties can remarry in the church, and the legitimacy of children born into the marriage is not questioned.

The Problem With Online Ordination

There is a growing trend for couples to be married by a close friend. Often, these ministers go through the ordination process online, which is not always legally sound. If you wish to get an annulment, this is fine because the wedding was probably not valid in the first place. 

Under Tennessee code, to be legally permitted to marry a couple, your ordination must be completed and granted with a “considered, deliberate, and responsible act.” Unfortunately, many online ordination processes do not require much thought at all.

Getting an Annulment

To receive an annulment, you need to file a complaint with the court. You must have lived in Tennessee for six months before the filing of the complaint. You will need to provide the following information in your claim:

  • Your full name, address, and date of birth of each spouse;
  • The names and birth dates for any children born during the marriage; and
  • Which party has lived in Tennessee for the past six months

If your marriage is annulled, it gives you the legal right to say you were never married to your former spouse. Much like a divorce, the court will have to decide on child custody and support, property division, and alimony.

Do I Need an Attorney?

Any time you have to deal with the legal system, it’s best to speak with an experienced attorney to help guide you through the situation. A family law attorney at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC can explain the annulment process in full and give you legal options on how to proceed with your claim. For decades, our attorneys have been handling family law cases across Middle Tennessee, and we can help you decide what the best course of action is for your marriage.

If you are considering a divorce or wondering if you are eligible for an annulment, we can help. Contact the Nashville attorneys at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC for more information.