An annulment action is different from a divorce. It is based on the premise that the marriage never existed. A divorce action ends an existing marriage. An annulment can be brought by one party seeking to invalidate the marriage. At the same time, the other party can seek to affirm the marriage. A third party can also cast doubt on the validity of a marriage such as the Immigration Service or IRS. In this situation, the parties can seek a judgment from the court affirming the marriage. Annulment actions must be brought under Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 207, Section 14.
Further, annulment actions can be maintained even if the parties were married outside of Massachusetts. The action can be brought under the following circumstances: (1) if at the time the action was brought by a party, the party lived in Massachusetts; or (2) the party lived in Massachusetts for five years prior to the action being brought.
In seeking to void a marriage, the court must determine if misrepresentation or deceit by the other party goes to the essence of the marriage. There are many circumstances that constitute fraud. Pregnancy by another man who is not a party’s husband warrants annulment. Concealment of an existing marriage by a party or polygamy is grounds to void a marriage.
By statute, the Commonwealth prevents marriages of certain parties due to consanguinity or affinity. These marriages are void without a judgment of annulment. However, it may be prudent to obtain a judgment.
The Probate and Family court has exclusive jurisdiction in annulment actions. Further, the court can make temporary orders relative to custody and support of minor children. Lastly, as to division of property and alimony under the divorce statutes, these provisions do not apply to annulment actions.