To get an annulment, you need to prove that your marriage is either void or voidable, and that this is the reason you're asking for an annulment. You can't get an annulment just because your marriage was very short. If your marriage doesn't meet one of the criteria listed as void or voidable below, you will need to get a divorce instead.
If you weren't legally allowed to marry in the first place and the state won’t approve such a marriage, it's called a void marriage. If you weren't legally permitted to marry because of a particular problem, but the state will allow you to choose to remain married, you have a voidable marriage.
Your marriage is void if:
- One of you was already married to someone else and the other didn't know. On the annulment complaint form, this is called bigamy. However, if the person asking for the annulment knew their spouse was already married before they married them, then they must request a divorce, not an annulment.
- You have married a close relative or a close relative by marriage. On the annulment form, this is called “Incest, Consanguinity, and Affinity.” In Massachusetts, you can’t marry your grandparents, step grandparents, parents, step parents, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, children, grandchildren, or your spouse’s parents, grandparents, children, or grandchildren. However, a man can marry his son’s wife, and a woman can marry her husband’s father.
Your marriage is voidable if:
- One of the spouses didn't have the mental capacity to consent to the marriage at the time. For example, if a spouse was drunk or mentally incompetent. The individual challenging the marriage on the basis of mental incompetence must establish that the incompetent person was unable to consent at the time of the marriage.
- One of the spouses is not physically capable of sexual intercourse.
- One of the spouses wasn't old enough to get married. In Massachusetts, you need to be 18 years old to get married, unless you have permission from your parents and the court.
- There was fraud involved in getting married. The Massachusetts courts will only annul a marriage for a fraud that goes to the heart of the marriage itself. Historically, annulments for fraud were focused on sexual relations and the ability to have children. Courts have also found fraud where one person had purely ulterior motives for entering the marriage — for example, if one person thought they were marrying for love, but the other person was only marrying them for immigration reasons. However, many deceptive or fraudulent acts won't be grounds for an annulment, and if you knew or should have known of the fraud, an annulment won't be granted.
What if I don't want the annulment?
If you don’t want your marriage annulled and your spouse has requested an annulment because the marriage is voidable, you can request to affirm the marriage, which means you're asking the court to declare that you're still married.