On behalf of The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C. posted in Annulment on December 9, 2013
Many of you may have followed the controversy involving the 72-day marriage of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries, which finally reached its conclusion in a divorce settlement. If you will recall, Kris originally wanted not a divorce but an annulment, arguing that the entire marriage was a publicity stunt and not intended as a “real” marriage.
What, exactly, is an annulment, and can you get one in Missouri?
An annulment voids a marriage; once annulled, the marriage from a legal standpoint never existed. If parties get an annulment, the court has no power to divide property or enter orders of child custody. Consequently, annulments tend to be rare, not only because we prefer to preserve the marriage contract but also we want to protect spouses and children.
Why would someone want an annulment? Usually because the marriage had such a short duration and was based on some critical mistake such that one or both parties would prefer to write the marriage out of existence. Some of that desire may stem from the feeling of deceit by the other spouse; some may flow from the stigma of having a divorce to one’s name.
You can get an annulment in Missouri, but only under limited circumstances. First, the marriage generally must be of very short duration and produce no children. Second, the marriage must have been procured by a material misrepresentation by one party to the other party regarding an essential core of the marital relationship – usually called “fraud” for short.
Not every misrepresentation qualifies as a fraud that warrants an annulment. For example, telling your spouse you were a virgin before you got married when in fact you had previous sexual partners will not qualify (though it did in the past). Telling your spouse you were a former marathon runner, award-winning chef or spelling bee champion, while all deceitful, will not pass as “essential” to the formation of the marriage relationship.
So what will qualify? Our courts have recognized several common types of fraud – concealing a medical condition (like syphilis or infertility), misrepresenting the ability to consummate a marriage (sexual dysfunction, sexual identity issues) and even lying to your spouse about your imminent release from prison!
In our experience, most clients seeking an annulment do so because of deceit regarding wanting a family or having the capacity to bear children, or making a lifestyle change essential to the marriage, such as relocating to a military base and military way of life.
To prove your case for annulment, you must establish that the spouse made the misrepresentations knowing they were in fact false, and that the intentional misrepresentations were made with the purpose of securing marriage, and that the marriage would not have taken place but for the misrepresentations.
In the case of Kim and Kris, Kris had to prove that Kim knew the marriage was a publicity stunt undertaken for a reality television show, that Kim intended to end the marriage shortly after the wedding, that Kris did not know of these facts, and had he known these facts, he would not have agreed to marry Kim. We do not know if Kris stopped pursuing an annulment because he could not prove the marriage was a sham from the get go, or he simply wanted to reach a settlement and have the whole mess end. However, had he been able to meet his burden of proof, those facts would have supported an annulment in Missouri.
Some people ask us about a religion-based annulment, where the particular religion forbids divorce. If the marriage meets the short duration and no children criteria, an annulment likely could be procured. But if the parties had children, the law generally discourages bastardizing the children for the sake of a religious rite.
If you have questions about an annulment, contact us – we can he