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October 25, 2021

A Guide to Annulment Laws in Utah

In limited circumstances, Utah courts can order an annulment of a marriage. In many respects, seeking an annulment is similar to seeking a divorce, but annulment and divorce are different legal processes. In an annulment, the court states that the marriage never existed in the first place. Annulments are different from divorces, which end a marriage. Utah residents may choose to pursue an annulment rather than a divorce for financial, social, and religious consequences over a divorce. There are many misconceptions surrounding annulments that we hope to clear up in our Utah annulment guide.


What is an Annulment?

There are only two ways to terminate a marriage in Utah, through an annulment or divorce. In a divorce, the court acknowledges that a marriage existed and has been dissolved. In an annulment, the court states that the marriage never legally existed. When a court finds that a marriage is invalid, they can choose to annul the marriage. When a marriage is annulled, it is as if the marriage never happened. 

On the other hand, when the court decides to grant a divorce, the court recognizes that the marriage was legally valid and recognized by the court. A divorce terminates a legally valid marriage. The grounds or reasons a court will grant an annulment differ from the grounds for divorce in Utah. Additionally, the process for obtaining an annulment is different from the divorce process.


Requirements for an Annulment in Utah

If you would like to pursue an annulment of your marriage and Utah, you will need to prove that one of the following situations apply in your case:

  • One or both spouses were impaired through the use of alcohol or drugs when they were married
  • The husband, wife, or both were already a registered domestic partner to another person, or they were married to someone else during the time of the marriage
  • The marriage was the result of an incestuous relationship, or both or one of the spouses was not old enough legally to marry at the time of the marriage
  • One spouse defrauded the other spouse, and it resulted in the marriage
  • One of the spouses wasn’t physically or mentally incapacitated
  • One of the parties was forced into the marriage
  • A person is unable to consummate the marriage
  • Any other reason that would make the marriage prohibited or void under Utah law
  • Any other reason allowed by the common law


Obtaining an Annulment Under Common Law

When deciding whether to grant an annulment, Utah courts will consider prior cases decided by appellate courts. Utah courts look at prior cases to see what other good reasons there could be for an annulment. Most of these cases involve some sort of fraud on the part of one of the spouses. However, this fraud must be directly related to the marriage. Most of the time, this spouse seeking an annulment will need to prove that if the spouse had known the truth, they would not have gotten married. If you are unsure whether your situation qualifies for an annulment, we recommend taking the time to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys. 


How to Get an Annulment in Utah

Obtaining an annulment is not something that Utah residents should take lightly. It is also not something people should try to handle on their own. Utah courts are resistant to granting annulments unless it is clear that one of the above circumstances has happened. Our family law attorneys understand how to annul a marriage because they know how to build a strong enough case based on facts and evidence to compel a Utah family court judge to grant the annulment. In many cases, Utah judges would rather grant a couple a no-fault divorce than an annulment, making it important that you discuss your case with an experienced attorney.


Is it Difficult to Get an Annulment in Utah?

Yes, getting an annulment in Utah can be difficult. The court will decide that the parties only qualify for a divorce, not an annulment, in many cases. You and your attorney will attend a hearing in front of a judge, and your attorney will need to persuade the judge to grant the annulment, even if you and your spouse both agree to the annulment from the beginning. Since getting an annulment is so difficult, it is important that you work with an experienced attorney with an in-depth understanding of Utah annulment laws. Our family law attorneys have extensive experience successfully helping clients obtain annulments in Utah.


How Long Does an Annulment Take?

Every case is unique in regards to how long an annulment will take. Typically, an annulment can take as little as six weeks. Depending on how complicated your cases are and how long your attorney needs to investigate, your annulment could take months to complete. 


Reasons to Seek an Annulment Instead of a Divorce

Sometimes people think of an annulment as an alternative to a divorce, but an annulment is different from a divorce. For example, in many religions, a person who has been divorced cannot remarry according to the tenets of their faith. An annulment results in a marriage never having legally happened, allowing an individual to pursue a second marriage. Keep in mind that civil annulments are handled by Utah courts well. A religious annulment is a different matter and must be handled within a person’s religious tradition. 


Proving Grounds for Annulment in Utah

Proving that you meet one of the grounds for annulment in Utah is not always easy. It is much easier to prove that you meet the requirements for a no-fault divorce than proving you meet one of the grounds for annulment. In some cases, spouses may not realize that their marriage was never legal until years after their wedding. In other cases, one spouse may learn that their spouse has been hiding the fact that their marriage was not legal for years. No matter which ground for an annulment you are using, obtaining proper documentation to support your claim is the best way to prove your case.

Suppose you seek an annulment because you were underage when you got married and feel like you were coerced into it. In that case, you can provide a copy of your birth certificate or another document that proves that you were underage when you got married. Obtaining documentation about your spouse can be more challenging, especially if your spouse is not cooperative and does not want to get an annulment.

In some cases, a spouse may try to hide their birth certificate from you so you cannot prove their age. If your spouse lied to you to defraud you into getting married, there might be no documentation or hard evidence of the lie. Suppose this sounds like your situation, and you are concerned that you will not be able to prove that you meet one of the grounds for annulment. In that case, we recommend consulting with the Utah divorce and annulment attorneys at Read Law as soon as possible. We will review your case and help you understand your legal options, and seek the evidence you need to obtain an annulment. 


Which Should I Choose – Annulment or Divorce?

Only you will be able to decide to seek an annulment or a divorce. However, we recommend discussing your case with an attorney before making such an important and life-changing decision. One of our skilled attorneys will review your case and offer thoughtful legal advice about the pros and cons of filing for an annulment or divorce. We can answer any questions you have and explain how the annulment process differs from the divorce process. If you were not sure whether you qualify for an annulment, we can help you understand whether you would meet one of the grounds for annulment or not.

In many ways, annulment and divorce are similar. Both processes legally and formally terminate a marriage. Both involve separating the spouses’ marital possessions, including their income, assets, and property. On the surface, they may seem so similar that you do not understand why an annulment would be different. However, there are several significant differences between these two ways of dissolving a marriage.


Seeking an Annulment for Religious Reasons

For many Utah residents, getting an annulment is necessary for religious purposes. Many different faiths prohibit divorce. When someone does get divorced, they could be forbidden by their church or Temple from remarrying another person within their faith. They could also face the social consequences of getting divorced from other members of their religion or church. Seeking an annulment is an excellent way to end a marriage without getting divorced. Remember, there are two different types of annulments. The first type of annulment is a legal annulment provided by a Utah court. Many people who successfully obtain a legal annulment go on to seek a religious annulment through their church or temple. 


The Advantages of Seeking an Annulment in Utah

In some ways, annulment is more thorough than a divorce. Divorce simply ends a marriage, but annulment goes a step further. An annulment retroactively states that the marriage never existed in the first place and that it is void. If you get an annulment, your marriage will be considered void. Since annulment erases a marriage, there is no marital estate, affecting how property is divided. 

Many people choose to seek out an annulment for religious reasons. When getting a divorce is prohibited by your religious beliefs and church, but you cannot continue in your marriage, an annulment can be ideal. Additionally, children of parents who annul their marriage are considered legitimate and maintain all legal rights to inheritance and child support. Seeking an annulment could be beneficial in terms of property division and what property you will be able to keep after the annulment.


Dividing Property After a Utah Annulment

The process of dividing property after an annulment is different than after a divorce. Even though an annulment completely erases the marriage and makes it as if it never existed, the spouse still needs to go through the property division process. Utah uses the equitable distribution rule to divide property when spouses are divorced. They will try to divide the spouses’ marital assets in the most equitable and fair way possible. In most cases, marital property is not divided in an even 50/50 split.

Property division works similarly for annulment and divorce. However, the grounds for your annulment could influence how a court divides your property. For example, suppose a spouse was the victim of infidelity or abuse. That spouse may end up receiving more property. When one spouse takes advantage of the other spouse, the court is less likely to award them a favorable property division.

Some marriages are annulled because they were entered into through fraud. If one spouse lied about his identity to convince someone to marry him, the spouse would have grounds for an annulment under fraud. Similarly, suppose one spouse tricked the other spouse into marrying them for their money. In this case, the court may be less inclined to award alimony to the fraudulent spouse. This type of dishonesty could make someone less sympathetic, and they could receive less property as a result.


David W. Read, Esq.

David Read practices family law, estate planning, and employment law throughout the Wasatch Front. Prior to working out of his current office, he maintained his practice at the law firm of Strong and Hanni and later at the law firm of Cordell and Cordell. David provides clients with high quality legal representation as he focuses on implementing the most efficient and legally effective strategies. David has been recognized in Utah Business Magazine’s “Utah Legal Elite” and Super Lawyers.

In limited circumstances, Utah courts can order an annulment of a marriage. In many respects, seeking an annulment is similar


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