We’ve all seen them. The cliché romantic comedy or the storyline concocted to draw in viewers for May sweeps. The “will they/won’t they” couple, through a drunken haze or a misunderstanding of foreign culture, end up hitched. Yet in the harsh reality of the next morning’s light one of the parties adamantly insists the night before was just “one big mistake.” The cliffhanger leaves the audience wondering how such a horror can be rectified.
Like a shining beacon of hope one little word is uttered… annulment. How simple it sounds. The court can invalidate the marriage and it will be as if nothing ever happened. However, an annulment is not as simple as proposed by our good friends in Tinseltown. Because, let’s face it, the legal particulars of invalidating a marriage would not be as endearing as Hugh Grant stumbling through his latest apology.
Perhaps the leading misconception surrounding annulments is the ease with which they are granted. Though the parties are spared the 90 day waiting period associated with a divorce, the grounds for which an annulment may be granted are far stricter. For an annulment to be granted in Colorado, proof of one of the following must be provided:
(1) A party lacked capacity to enter the marriage as a result of either mental capacity, infirmity or influence of drugs or alcohol;
(2) A party lacked physical capacity to consummate the marriage;
(3) A party is underage and did not have consent of his or her parent;
(4) One party entered into the marriage in reliance upon a fraudulent act or representation of another that goes to the essence of the marriage;
(5) One or both parties entered into the marriage under duress;
(6) One of both parties entered into the marriage as a jest or dare;
(7) The marriage is prohibited by law
In addition to meeting one of the reasons listed above the parties must begin annulment proceedings within a certain time frame. The reason you seek an annulment will dictate the timeframe you have to file for an annulment. For example, if you wish to annul your marriage because of fraudulent representation that goes to the essence of the marriage you must begin proceedings within 6 months of learning of the fraudulent representation. Whereas if you want to annul your marriage because a party lacked the physical capacity to consummate the marriage you have one year after learning of the condition.
It should be noted that the rules under the Uniform Dissolution of Marriage Act (C.R.S. §14-10-101 et. seq.) are applicable to annulment proceedings. Practically speaking this means the laws governing property division, spousal maintenance, child support, and allocation of parental responsibilities, are applicable when relevant.
Like all fantasies, the annulment of a marriage in pop culture lands far from the mark of reality. The process, like most legal proceedings, is complex and must be expertly navigated to ensure success. The logistics of said proceedings are not conducive to being wrapped up in a half hour T.V. show or even a feature length film and arguably, not nearly as romantic, though possibly as taut with tension as even the best Hollywood has to offer.