The legal termination of a marriage in Pennsylvania is not limited to divorce. A court can also rule that a marriage is invalid. An annulment is granted where a marriage did not legally exist at inception, and courts look at several factors to determine a marriage's validity.
First, the court will look at the marriage history of each spouse. Specifically, the court is looking to see if one of the spouses was already married to another person.
Second, the court will look at whether the marriage violated consanguinity laws. These prohibit marriages between specified relatives through blood or degrees of marriage.
Third, the court looks at the spouses themselves to ensure that neither party was incompetent, lacked the capacity to marry or was intoxicated during the marriage ceremony. But, while the lack of competency or capacity invalidates the marriages, regardless of when an annulment action is commenced, an annulment for intoxication must be commenced within 60 days.
Fourth, the court will look at the ages of the spouses. Where one of the spouses was under 16-years-old and did not receive court approval for marriage, the marriage is invalid. This invalidity also includes marriages where one spouse is 16 or 17-years-old, and the spouses did not receive parental consent or court-approval for the marriage. But, this will not qualify it was not agreed-to or ratified after the then-underage spouse reached 18.
Fifth, a court may also annul a marriage where either party was incurably impotent at the time of the marriage. However, the non-impotent spouse must be unware of that condition before marriage.
Finally, fraud, duress, coercion or force at the time of marriage is the last ground for annulment. But, for these grounds, the parties must not voluntarily live together after the fraud was discovered or the release from the other conditions.
The end of a marriage, whether through divorce or annulment, can involve numerous legal issues. A lawyer can assist a party in any legal dispute and help assure that their best interests are protected.
Source: Splas.org, "Annulment," accessed on Jan. 24, 2017