May 13, 2013

Georgia Annulment

A person has two options to end a marriage in Georgia – annulment or divorce. An annulment is much harder to come by and may only be granted in the case of a marriage declared void by law. OCGA §19-4-1. In Georgia, “marriages of persons unable to contract, unwilling to contract, or fraudulently induced to contract shall be void.” OCGA §19-3-5(a). Thus, a person may get an annulment if he/she can prove the marriage is void for one of the above reasons. However, in the case of a spouse unwilling to conrtact or fraudulently induced into contract, a subsequent consent and ratification of the marriage, freely and voluntarily made, accompanied by cohabitation as husband and wife shall render the marriage valid.” OCGA §19-3-5(b). In that situation, an annulment would not be granted and the person’s only option for ending the marriage is divorce.

In addition, Georgia law is clear that an annulment may not be granted “in instances where children are born or are to be born as a result of the marriage.” OCGA §19-4-1.

If an annulment is granted, it “shall have the effect of a total divorce between the parties of a void marriage and shall return the parties thereto to their original status before marriage.” OCGA §19-4-5. The main difference is the parties will walk away as if the marriage never happened, as opposed to divorce where there may be equitable division and/or alimony.

January 18, 2013

What Constitutes Fraud Sufficient to Obtain an Annulment in Georgia?

There are six grounds that a couple or an individual may assert in order to receive an annulment in Georgia. The grounds for annulment in Georgia include: 1) intermarriage between the parties, such intermarriage between a father and daughter; 2) one of the parties is under 16 years of age; 3) one of the parties did not have sufficient mental capacity at the time of the marriage; 4) one of the parties was committing bigamy, meaning one spouse was married to someone else at the time of the marriage; 5) force, menace, or duress was used in obtaining the marriage; and 6) fraud. See generally O.C.G.A. §19-3-3; 19-3-4; 19-3-5. In Georgia, it is most common for annulments to be based on the latter two grounds. Although it may be simple to conceive of an instance of force, menace or duress that should result in an annulment, for instance if one party intimidates the other party into marriage with a threat of death or physical bodily harm, it is more difficult to imagine what type of fraudulent behavior would result in the annulment of a marriage.

According to the Official Code of Georgia:

a) Marriages of persons unable to contract, unwilling to contract, or fraudulently induced to contract shall be void. However, the issue of such a marriage born before the marriage is annulled and declared void by a competent court shall be legitimate.

(b) In the case of persons unwilling to contract or fraudulently induced to do so, a subsequent consent and ratification of the marriage, freely and voluntarily made, accompanied by cohabitation as husband and wife shall render the marriage valid...

O.C.G.A. 19-3-5. “To constitute an actual contract of marriage, the parties must consent thereto voluntarily without any fraud practiced upon either. Drunkenness at the time of marriage, brought about by art or contrivance to induce consent shall be held as fraud.” O.C.G.A. 19-3-4. Additionally, “all contracts or bonds made to hinder or to force marriage are deemed fraudulent and void.” O.C.G.A. 19-3-7.

The statutory law outlined above suggests that marriages entered into as a result of a contract forcing the parties to marry or as a result of one party’s drunkenness are invalid and subject to annulment. See also Baxter v. Rogers, 195 Ga. 274 (1943). Additionally, Georgia case law suggests that if a husband is induced to marry after being told by his wife that she was pregnant with his child, when in fact the child is not his, this may be sufficient for annulment based on fraud. See Reynolds v. Reynolds, 153 Ga. 490 (1922). Annulments based on the ground of fraud or fraudulent inducement may be granted on other fact patterns as well. In order to learn if an annulment is the best option for your situation, please contact one of our family law professionals.

By A. Latrese Martin, Associate Attorney, Meriwether & Tharp, LLC

December 5, 2011

Kim Kardashian divorce case - what would happen in Georgia?

When celebrity family law cases make national news, clients often wonder how the case would turn out in Georgia. In a celebrity family law case currently gripping the headlines, Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries are now battling over whether their 72-day marriage will end in divorce or annulment. Kim Kardashian ‘doesn’t want a battle’ with Kris Humphries: Source, by Jennifer Garcia, PEOPLE.com, December 2, 2011. Though Kardashian filed for divorce to end their marriage, Humphries has filed for an annulment on the grounds of fraud. If the parties obtain an annulment, it will be as if the marriage never happened.

In California, like in Georgia, fraud is grounds for an annulment. However, in both states, the fraud must be proven, not just alleged, or an annulment cannot be granted. Though there is speculation in the media about the fraud in this marriage, Humphries must come with facts, not just speculation in order to be granted an annulment. If the fraud cannot be proven, the marriage will end in divorce. The same would happen in Georgia. It will be interesting to see how this one turns out, and whether the divorce/annulment action lasts longer than the marriage itself.

October 11, 2008

What are the Georgia requirements for getting an annulment?

Fairly frequently, people call our office attempting to get an annulment of their marriage rather than a divorce. Often we find, however, that the caller is not eligible for a annulment. The reason why is that you can only seek to obtain an annulment for certain specific grounds.

In Georgia, there are six grounds for granting an annulment in Georgia. Four of these grounds fall into a category of unique cases, specifically: 1) intermarriage between the parties (such as father/daughter, etc); 2) one of the parties is under 16 years of age; 3) one of the parties did not have the mental capacity at the time of the marriage; 4) one of the parties was committing bigamy (i.e. one spouse was married to someone else at the time of the marriage). Outside of these four unique factual circumstances, there are really only two grounds for annulment that are commonly used in Georgia: 1) Force, menace, or duress was used in obtaining the marriage; 2) Fraud.

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