Indiana Annulment Laws
When most people think about the dissolution of marriage, they often only consider the two most popular avenues: divorce and legal separation. Yet, there is a third avenue for dissolving a marriage called annulment. This avenue may only be pursued under very narrow circumstances, as outlined in the Indiana annulment laws. However, if granted, the marriage would be treated as if, legally, it had never occurred in the first place.
Whether you are considering annulment yourself or are a guardian seeking to petition for annulment on behalf of an incapacitated person, it’s best that you speak with a skilled Indiana family lawyer with experience handling matters of annulment, legal separation and divorce. While annulment may require completely different grounds compared to divorce and separation, the subsequent proceedings on the matter will be the same as any other dissolution of marriage. Therefore, an Indiana divorce lawyer will be well-equipped to capably identify and handle all the necessary issues that may arise.
If you’d like to speak with a divorce attorney, do not hesitate to contact the law office of Keffer Hirschauer LLP. Our Indianapolis attorneys have extensive experience representing individuals in dissolution proceedings, and can provide expert guidance as you navigate this difficult process. To consult with an attorney today call 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free confidential consultation.
Indiana Laws on Annulment
The Indiana annulment laws can be found in Chapters 8 and 9 of Indiana Code 31-11. These laws cover both void and voidable marriages, while Chapter 10 of the same article covers the procedures required to annul a voidable marriage.
Void marriages are marriages which are unlawful or invalid in the state of Indiana. Under most circumstances, these marriages do not require court proceedings to become void (or annulled). For example, a marriage that included one party who was still legally married at the time the marriage was solemnized is void without proceedings. In addition, most marriages between parties that are more closely related than second cousins are void without proceedings as well.
However, under the Indiana annulment laws in Indiana Code 31-11-8-4, a court proceeding may be required to annul a marriage if one or both of the parties were mentally incompetent when the marriage was solemnized. Furthermore, as prescribed in Indiana Code 31-11-8-6, court proceedings may be required to annul a marriage between Indiana residents who intended to evade Indiana law.
Voidable marriages, on the other hand, are marriages which may be annulled should the parties choose to pursue this avenue of dissolution. Per the Indiana annulment laws in Indiana Code 31-11-9-2 and Indiana Code 31-11-9-3, individuals may only seek annulment of their marriage under two circumstances: Incapacity to marry due to age or mental incompetence or fraud by one of the parties to the marriage.
It’s important to note that for cases alleging fraud, Indiana annulment law does provide a statutory defense for the accused. Per Indiana Code 31-11-10-2, it is an applicable defense in any action brought under this section that, “after the discovery of the alleged fraud, the alleged victim continued to cohabit with the other party to the marriage.”
Actions to Annul Voidable Marriages in Indiana
Indiana Code 31-11-10 contains the laws governing the process of filing for annulment. Under this chapter of Indiana annulment law any action pursuant to the annulment of a marriage must be entered in a circuit or superior court with jurisdiction over the marriage. There is, however, one exception to this rule. Under Indiana Code 31-11-10-4(b), if a court has authorized a guardian to file an action to annul a marriage on behalf of an incapacitated person, as described in Indiana Code 29-3-9-12.2, they may file the action in their county of residence, provided they have resided in that county for at least three months immediately preceding the filing of the action. In addition, when filing the petition, they must set forth their name and address and attach a copy of the court order granting them authority to petition on the incapacitated party’s behalf.
Petition for Authority to Petition for Annulment in Indiana
As discussed above, a guardian of an incapacitated person may petition the court requesting the authority to petition for annulment on behalf of the incapacitated person, provided that they feel it is in the best interest of that person. In order to do so, Indiana Code 29-3-9-12.2(b), states that the guardian must set forth the following information in a petition to the court:
- The purpose for petitioning under the Indiana annulment laws
- The names and addresses of the incapacitated person’s spouse
- The names and addresses of the incapacitated person’s adult children who are not guardians (if applicable)
- If the incapacitated person is a minor, the names and addresses of a parent of the incapacitated person whose parental rights have not been terminated.
Furthermore, this section requires a guardian petitioning the court to provide a copy of the petition to all individuals listed in the petition (as described above) and any other interested person, as ordered by the court. The copies of the petition must be provided to these individuals/parties on or before the date the petition is filed.
Upon receipt of the petition, the court shall set a date for a hearing and notify all parties at least 30 days prior to the date of the hearing. At the hearing, the court shall seek to determine, by clear and convincing evidence, that petitioning for annulment is in the best interests of the incapacitated person. To do so, they shall consider all circumstances, including:
- the desire and interests of the other spouse in remaining married
- The risk of harm to the incapacitated person’s physical or mental health
- The risk of harm to the incapacitated person’s safety
- The risk of harm to the incapacitated person’s property
- the incapacitated person’s intent or preferences, for or against
- Any prior decisions made by the incapacitated person, for or against
Ultimately, if the court rules in favor of the petitioner’s request, it shall then grant the petition and authorize the guardian to petition for annulment on behalf of the incapacitated person.
Annulment vs Divorce in Indiana
When it comes to the topic of annulment vs divorce in Indiana, it’s important to understand that these two avenues of dissolution are vastly different from one another. In general, Indiana courts will only annul a marriage under very narrow circumstances; and if granted, the law will treat an annulled (or void) marriage as if it had never existed in the first place. Divorce, on the other hand, may be granted under almost any circumstance, provided both parties agree to the dissolution of the marriage. In addition, following a divorce the marriage will still have legally occurred, albeit now dissolved.
There are, however, some similarities between annulment and divorce, especially when it comes to determinations regarding children and property. This is due to the fact that, under Indiana Code 31-11-10-4(a), all annulment proceedings must be conducted in accordance with the Indiana Code 31-15, which contains the laws and procedures governing the Indiana divorce process. Given this, disputes and matters relating to child support, child custody, parenting time, property division, and spousal maintenance will be handled in the same manner as any other divorce in Indiana.
Given this, it’s vital that anyone hoping to dissolve a marriage, whether through annulment, legal separation or divorce in Indiana, seek the counsel of a skilled and experienced Indiana family law attorney. Matters like these can be overwhelming and stressful to handle on your own and may become contentious if children or significant property are involved. Therefore, you’ll want to have an Indiana divorce lawyer on your side that is dedicated to protecting the best interests of both you and your family.
Questions about the Laws on Annulment in Indiana?
If you have any questions about the Indiana annulment laws or about the process of filing for the authority to petition for annulment as a guardian, feel free to contact the Indiana family law attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP. We know just how taxing these types of legal matters can be and would gladly sit down with you to help explain the legal landscape surrounding your situation. To speak with an lawyer today, 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free, confidential consultation.