Chapter Six of the Texas Family Code details the grounds upon which couples may file for divorce in the Lone Star State. Divorces are granted when two people have been lawfully married and no longer wish to remain lawfully married. This chapter of the Texas Family Code also discusses the relatively rare circumstances under which a marriage may be deemed invalid—a judge determines that, due to circumstances present at the beginning of a union, a legally valid marriage never existed between a couple.
When this occurs, a marital dissolution decree is not ordered to dissolve the couple’s union. Instead, a judge grants an annulment so that – for all intents and purposes – a marriage between the parties never occurred in the eyes of the law. Not everyone is eligible for an annulment, which is why these orders are granted far less frequently than divorce decrees are.
Note that an annulment is distinct from a void marriage. In an annulment, typically, one partner files an Original Petition to Annul Marriage so that a judge may decide whether a valid marriage did or did not exist between the petitioner and the other party named in that petition. If grounds for an annulment existed at the start of the marriage, but neither party questions them, that couple can continue to engage in the benefits and responsibilities of a valid legal marriage. By contrast, a void marriage is a union that is not valid from the start and cannot be considered valid even if the parties continue to cohabitate and live as spouses. Void marriages generally occur when one party is still married to another when they marry someone else or when the parties are very closely related.
Texas Annulment Lawyer
Annulment can be a highly complex process without the assistance of a dedicated attorney. Not every marriage can be annulled, so the first step of the process is to understand what Texas constitutes as legal grounds for annulment. To acquire the legal representation of a dedicated family law attorney, contact Matthew Horak at Horak Law who has over a decade of experience addressing annulments.
Call (713) 225-8000 to arrange a free consultation today. Horak Law has offices in The Woodlands and Houston, TX
To successfully file for an annulment in Texas, at least one spouse must currently live in the Lone Star State, or the couple in question must have been married in Texas. For an annulment to be granted, one of the parties must generally prove one or more of the following scenarios:
- At least one spouse is permanently impotent
- At least one spouse was under the age of eighteen at the start of the marriage
- At least one spouse suffered from diminished capacity due to the presence of alcohol or drugs in their system at the time of their union
- At least one spouse concealed the fact that they had been divorced before
- One spouse married the other under threat, duress, fraud, or force
- At least one spouse lacked the mental capacity to marry lawfully
Additionally, a union may be annulled if the spouses got married “too quickly.” In Texas, spouses must generally wait at least three days (72 hours) from the time their marriage license has been issued before they can wed. A couple that ignores this mandate may potentially have their marriage annulled, although there are some exceptions to this general rule. For example, the waiting period does not apply to active servicemembers of the U.S. armed forces.
If a child or children were born or adopted by the parties seeking an annulment when at least one party believed themselves to be lawfully wed – and their children have not yet reached the age of majority – a SAPCR must be filed along with the Original Petition to Annul Marriage. SAPCR stands for “Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship.” Essentially, filing a SAPCR alerts the court that, in addition to dissolving the union in question, it is being called upon to order custody rights and visitation (commonly referred to as parenting time) and child support.
Child custody matters may be primarily resolved out of court if both parents agree to the terms of a co-parenting arrangement, likely drafted by their attorneys. However, if a child’s parents struggle to resolve fundamental differences concerning terms of a co-parenting agreement, then the court may be called upon to resolve those differences.
All family law judges in the U.S. are bound to settle child custody disagreements according to the “best interests of the child” standard. For better and for worse, each judge interprets that standard differently, according to their own beliefs and biases. As a result, when parents seeking an annulment are also navigating contentious child custody issues, they should not “DIY” their annulment (regardless of how straightforward their financial situation may be). Contentious child custody challenges require the assistance of a skilled attorney.
There is no waiting period enforced for annulments in Texas. While many states enforce a waiting period for divorce petitions – meaning spouses must wait a specific amount of time before their divorce can be finalized after their divorce petition has been filed – no such waiting period is imposed for annulments for Texas. This makes sense, given that the state has no reason to encourage individuals who have not been lawfully married to explore ways to bridge their differences.
After an Original Petition to Annul Marriage has been filed, the party against whom the petition has been filed will be allowed to respond. If no response is filed, the court will likely grant a default judgment in favor of the party who filed the petition. As a result, anyone served with annulment papers who disagrees with any of their terms needs to speak with a lawyer about filing a timely response.
Annulment: Answers to Common Questions – This guide to the annulment process in Texas is provided free to the public courtesy of the Self-Represented Litigants Project at the Texas Legal Services Center.
Annulment in the Catholic Church – This resource, published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, discusses religious annulment within the Catholic faith. Other faith-based communities may publish their resources for members to reference if they are interested in seeking a religious annulment.
Houston Annulment Attorney | Harris County, TX
To determine whether you are eligible for an annulment, you should seek advice from dedicated Houston family law attorney Matthew Horak at Horak Law who can help. If you do not qualify for an annulment, he assist you with the process of divorce in Texas.
Ensure your interests are protected by hiring an experienced attorney or you might risk getting your case dismissed by the court. Call (713) 225-8000 today to schedule a free consultation.
Horak Law has two locations in Houston and The Woodlands, but attorney Horak also accepts clients in Harris County, Montgomery County, Brazoria County, Galveston County, Waller County, Fort Bend County, and Liberty County, Texas.