Annulment vs. Divorce in Tennessee
An annulment and a divorce are not the same. While a divorce is born out of issues that arise during the marital relationship, annulments address problems surrounding the formation of the marriage.
Annulments also invalidate your marriage and make it seem as if the marriage never happened. With a divorce, you are ending a valid marriage. It is important to note that an annulment does not make children legally illegitimate.
Even if you get an annulment, any children of the marriage are legitimate. Those children can not only still inherit but can also be owed child support (Tennessee Code § 36-4-125).
Church Annulment vs. Court Annulment
Within the Catholic Church, couples may seek an annulment (also referred to as a declaration of nullity). A declaration of nullity, from a Church tribunal (a Catholic Church court), states that a marriage thought to be valid didn’t meet at least one of the fundamental elements required of a binding Church union.
Unlike a court annulment, annulments from the Church do not deny the relationship ever happened. These annulments assert that an element was missing that the Church requires for valid marriages.
For religious reasons, you and your partner may want a declaration of nullity. However, you will need a court annulment if you want the marriage to be legally voided and acknowledged by the state.
Annulment Requirements in Tennessee
To file for an annulment, one party must have lived in Tennessee for 6 months. The filing party will need to file a “Complaint for Annulment” form.
This form will ask for specific information. You will need to include:
- Each spouse’s name, address, and date of birth
- Names and dates of birth of any children
- Which spouse is a Tennessee resident
- If you will need to work out child custody, child support, or property division
- The grounds for the annulment
Once you submit the form, you will need a copy to serve to the defendant (the non-filing individual). If your spouse is out of state or unable to be located, the clerk’s office or an attorney can advise you on what to do next.
Grounds for Annulment in Tennessee
To annul your marriage, you must have legal grounds (reasons) for the annulment. With evidence and/or witness testimonies, the filing party will have to prove the grounds for the annulment are valid. In Tennessee, grounds for an annulment are:
- Underage spouse (see Tennessee Code § 36-3-105)
- Duress (i.e., forced coercion)
- Refusal of marital rights, such as living together or consummation
There are some caveats, though. If you are filing on grounds of insanity, an annulment may not be granted if the spouse now has sound mental health. If you are filing on grounds of impotence, you must prove the impotence is permanent and existed before the marriage.
Furthermore, if you agreed to not live with your partner before the marriage, you may not be granted an annulment on grounds of refusing marital rights. You cannot file on those grounds if you have ever lived together or had sexual intercourse either.
Can an Annulment Be Contested?
You can fight an annulment by arguing against the grounds under which your case is filed. For instance, if your partner cites fraud as the grounds, you can seek to prove that you didn’t defraud the other party.
Obtaining a legal annulment is no easy feat, and an annulment is in no way a “fast-track divorce”. You should consult with an experienced divorce attorney to ensure you are eligible for annulment and that you file on the right grounds.
Need help filing for an annulment? At Conner & Roberts, PLLC, our lawyers believe in advocating for you and your best interest. For a free initial consultation, give us a call at (423) 299-4489 or reach out online. With nearly 40 years of combined experience, we are prepared to help you navigate this process with compassionate and affordable legal counsel.