When it comes to ending a marriage, most people consider divorce as the first option. However, another option is annulment, a process through which the marriage never legally existed. This can seem like an appealing option when other factors make divorce unattractive for a couple.
However, an annulment is a distinct legal procedure that has different requirements than a divorce. Fully understanding annulment in Colorado can help you make the correct decision when deciding the best way to end your marriage.
Divorce and Annulment in Colorado
Like many other states, Colorado allows for “no-fault” divorce. So long as married couples follow the correct period of separation procedures, they may move forward with a no-fault divorce, with no need for other circumstances to come into play.
When it comes to annulment, Colorado does not have any procedures that use that name. However, the state does allow for a court action known as a “declaration of invalidity.” This order operates roughly in the same manner as an annulment, stating that your marriage was not valid – ending your legal obligations without a divorce.
Legal Grounds to Obtain a Declaration of Invalidity
Unlike the ability to file for a no-fault divorce, you must meet specific requirements to file and successfully obtain a declaration of invalidity. Under Colorado law, those circumstances are:
Either spouse lacked the intellectual ability to consent to marriage due to drugs, alcohol, or another incapacity
Either spouse could not physically consummate the marriage, but the other spouse didn’t know that when the marriage took place.
Either spouse was under the legal age of marriage
Either of the spouses was compelled to marry
Either of the spouses entered the marriage because of a joke or because someone dared them
One spouse married due to fraudulent acts or misrepresentation of the other
The marriage was void because of bigamy, polygamy, incest, or another violation of marriage law
In addition to meeting the requirements for a declaration of invalidity, a spouse must file a petition within a specific time frame. You have 6 months to file for annulment on the grounds of lack of mental capacity or the claim of duress, dare, or fraud; 12 months for unconsummated marriages; and 25 months for violations of the age of consent. Claims of incest, bigamy, and polygamy have no time limit for filing a court petition.
How Long Does an Annulment Take?
Not only do declarations of invalidity have strict legal grounds for filing, the involved parties will likely also need to provide proof of the grounds for annulment. This can involve lengthy proceedings to justify the annulment request and additional legal preparations, even when both parties agree that they want to have their marriage declared invalid.
In contested annulments, the procedure can take even longer, quickly stretching out the timeline beyond that of a standard divorce. There will also be the consideration of applicable child custody, support, and visitation as would occur in a divorce. Unlike some other states, Colorado allows for distribution of any marital property through annulment, even though there is no legal marriage in the first place.
In contrast, because of Colorado’s allowance of no-fault divorces, a court can process a divorce proceeding much more quickly than an annulment – even though popular perception seems to be the opposite. For those who are hoping to find a quicker alternative to divorce, an annulment may not be the way to go.
However, certain circumstances may mean that annulment is the better option for ending your marriage. Consulting with an attorney can help you understand if you have the legal grounds for an annulment, as well as determine which procedure will better suit your specific needs.