Marriage annulment is not like divorce. Annulment declares that a marriage was never valid. Divorce is the formal process of ending a legitimate marriage.
Annulled marriages are treated as though they never took place, but a divorce recognizes the existence of a marriage that later ended.
To receive an annulment, you must prove that the marriage should not have happened in the first place.
Grounds for annulment include:
- getting married under duress
- one partner already being married to someone else
- one partner being underage or below the legal age of consent
- a lack of understanding of the marriage contract due to deception or fraud
- one partner being mentally or physically incapable of providing full consent
These stipulations do, however, create a problem. Some longer marriages may be eligible for annulment, and there could be children involved. Courts must still make custody decisions in such cases.
Here is a broad overview of how judges and courts could make custody decisions in a marriage annulment.
Annulment Treats the Spouses as Individuals
The law treats annulled spouses as individuals, and it will not recognize that they have ever been married. There are already many laws in place for unmarried parents, so you can expect them all to apply in an annulment.
All legal parents have rights, regardless of their marital status. They can decide who has parental responsibility over their child, which is called “legal custody.” Generally, these matters refer to healthcare and educational decisions.
Parents can also agree on parenting schedules and arrangements including:
- where the child will live
- how much time they will spend with each parent.
If a parent spends scheduled time with the children, this is called “visitation.” Having the children for extended, overnight periods is “joint custody.”
Legally recognized parents can create parenting plans together, or the courts can do it for them.
Challenges to Child Custody in a Marriage Annulment
Annulments often involve some degree of deceit. One spouse may have lied about their identity, age, family history, and so on.
Courts may consider the character of each parent when making decisions about child custody. If one spouse was duped into the marriage, the court will consider this fact in a custody decision.
Judges also consider a parent’s mental and physical health and their ability to provide a stable home environment. Sometimes, annulments are the direct result of a mental health crisis. Someone gets married in a manic or delusional state, and when they come to their senses, they realize they don’t want the life they’re in. Problems like these don’t typically “go away.” A parent with a history of mental illness may have limited custody or visitation privileges.
Creating a Fair Parenting Plan Together
Mediation is an effective tool for creating a parenting plan. Attending mediation can help tackle issues such as visitation schedules, communication between parents, financial support, and decision-making powers.
During mediation sessions, a neutral third-party mediator will help both parties come to an agreement they are both comfortable with. This can help ensure that the needs of all involved are considered while also avoiding lengthy and costly court battles. Additionally, mediation allows for flexibility should circumstances change over time, and both parties can work together to make adjustments as needed.
Law Offices Of Mark M. Childress is here to help with all your family law concerns, including annulments and custody battles. You can reach our office by calling (817) 497-8148 or contacting us online.