For married couples who may be considering a divorce, another potential legal option is to seek an annulment. But not every couple is eligible.
Like a divorce, an annulment dissolves a marriage. However, unlike a divorce -- in which a marriage is still recognized as having been previously valid -- when a marriage is annulled it is treated as if it never happened. Annulment is sometimes sought for religious reasons, but may also be requested for entirely personal reasons too.
What legal grounds must a person show to get his or her marriage annulled? Here are five potential ways to pursue an annulment:
Fraud or misrepresentation. If one spouse lied to the other in inducing that spouse to enter into the marriage, a court will likely order that the marriage should be annulled.
Failure to disclose important information. If a spouse is found to have concealed an important fact from the other spouse at the time of the marriage, such as a drug addiction, or being pregnant with another man's child, then the marriage may be annulled.
Impotence or refusal to consummate the marriage. If a spouse is impotent or otherwise refuses to consummate the marriage, this may be grounds for annulment. Annulment may also be granted in the case where the spouses are closely related, such as marriage between parents and children or between two siblings or half-siblings.
Temporary insanity. If a person claims they were temporarily insane at the time the marriage was entered into, the marriage will likely be annulled as an insane person lacks the capacity to enter into a valid marriage.
Religious annulment. In addition to seeking a civil annulment, married couples may also have their marriage annulled by the church to which they belong (keep in mind, however, that this will not have the legal effect of a civil annulment or divorce). For example, in the Catholic Church, an annulment may be granted by a diocesan tribunal. In statements made earlier this week, Pope Francis hinted at the possibility that the Catholic Church may begin offering such annulments at no cost after discovering that church officials were charging as much as $10,000 for a religious annulment, reports USA Today.
To learn more about annulments and other legal issues affecting marriage, head over to FindLaw's section on Family Law.