An annulment and a divorce are similar in the sense that both make a determination on marital status. The main difference between the two is that an annulment declares a marriage as invalid—essentially meaning that the marriage effectively never happened in the eyes of the law, while a divorce ends a valid and existing marriage.
To many individuals, an annulment is seen as a simpler and cheaper way to end a marriage. While it is possible to get an annulment—or a declaration of invalidity as it is known in Colorado—instead of getting a divorce, the reality is that declaring a marriage invalid is not only unusual, but is also seldom easier than getting a divorce due to Colorado being a no-fault divorce state.
This means that in order to get an annulment in the state, it is not enough to prove that the marriage is irretrievably or irreparably broken as in the case of a divorce. Instead, the spouse seeking the annulment must prove one of the specific legal circumstances set by the state. These include:
• A spouse lacking the mental capacity to consent at the time of the marriage due to drugs, alcohol, a medical condition, and so on. In such a case, you must file an action within six months of learning that the spouse lacked the ability to consent to the marriage.
• A spouse lacking the physical ability to consummate the marriage—and the other spouse being unaware of this at the time of marriage. In such case, you must file an action within a year from learning that the spouse was physically unable to have sexual intercourse.
• A spouse being underage to consent to marriage, and not having proper consent from parents, guardians, or a Colorado judge to marry. In such a case, you must file an action within two years from the date the marriage was entered into.
• A spouse marrying on reliance of the other’s fraudulent misrepresentation or act which went to the essence of the marriage—such as a claim of illness, marrying for financial gain, or marrying for a green card. In such a case, you must file an action within six months of learning of the fraudulent action.
• One or both spouses marrying as a result of a dare or jest. In such a case, you must file an action within six months of learning of the dare or jest.
• One or both spouses marrying under duress. In such a case, you must file an action within six months of learning of the duress.
• The marriage being void due to bigamy, polygamy, or because the spouses are related by blood. In such case, an action may be filed any time before either party dies, or before the final settlement of the estate of either spouse after his or her death.
Before asking a judge for a declaration of invalidity in Colorado, a spouse must be a resident of the state for at least 30 days prior to filing an action. Note that the 30-day waiting period does not apply for parties married in Colorado.
A declaration of invalidity may bring about custodial and child support issues, as well as serious financial implications when it comes to the division of assets, debts and properties. If you are considering filing for a declaration of invalidity, it would be in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable family attorney first.