An annulment means that the court has decided the marriage was never valid.
To have your marriage annulled in Vermont, you need to show that you have a legal reason for the annulment. These are recognized grounds for annulment in Vermont:
- Underage: One spouse was under age 16 at the time of marriage.
- Unsound mind: One spouse was unable to consent because of insanity or other mental health disability.
- Physical incapacity: One spouse is physically incapable of consummating the marriage.
- Force: One spouse was coerced or threatened into getting married.
- Fraud: One spouse lied or hid information to convince the other spouse to marry.
- Incest: The spouses are related.
- Bigamy: One spouse has a living spouse from another marriage.
Some of these legal grounds have specific rules:
Underage: If a person married when under the age of 16, but freely continued to live with the other spouse after turning 18, the marriage won’t be annulled.
Unsound mind: If a spouse was insane at the time of the marriage, but has regained sanity and the spouses continued to live together thereafter, the marriage won’t be annulled.
Physical incapacity: For a marriage to be annulled because one spouse is physically incapable, the other spouse has to file for annulment within two years of the date they were married.
There are specific forms to file when seeking an annulment, and there are filing fees and service fees. If you feel you cannot afford the fees, you can ask the clerk for an Application to Waive Filing Fees and Service Costs.
Here are the forms you will need to file:
- Cover sheet
- Complaint for Annulment
- Department of Health Record of Divorce or Annulment form
- Notice of Appearance, Answer to the Complaint, and Counterclaim form
The judge will review your filing to determine whether you have met the standard for an annulment. If you meet the standard, the court staff will discuss with you the process of serving the other party. You can find information about serving papers here. If you do not meet the standard for an annulment, your case will be closed and you may choose to file for a divorce, separation, or civil union dissolution.
Issues of parental rights and responsibilities, child support, and property division can also be addressed by the court in an annulment case. You and your partner may be required to participate in a self-represented litigant education program, a parenting course, or both. A case manager conference may also be scheduled. The court may also require that you attend mediation to try to work through disagreements. Unlike with divorce, in an annulment case, the court will likely require a hearing with evidence given as to the grounds for annulment, even if you both agree on all of the issues. This is because the law requires that the judge make findings based on evidence for the grounds for an annulment, in addition to the parties’ “say so” [15 V.S.A. §518].
An order granting annulment of your marriage means that you were never legally married to your spouse. Even though you were never married, the judge can still decide on the same issues during an annulment as during a divorce. This includes parental rights and responsibilities (custody), parent–child contact (visitation), child support, spousal maintenance, and property division.
Children of annulled marriages have the same rights as children of valid marriages. They have the right to be supported by both parents and can inherit from both parents.