Imprisonment as Grounds for Annulment of Marriage
Annulment is a legal proceeding initiated to terminate an invalid marriage. Annulment differs from divorce in that it is retroactive and leaves the parties to the annulment in the same position as if the marriage never happened. Annulments are typically granted when the divorce was never legal to begin with. Statistically, annulments are very rare compared to divorce because the grounds for annulment are very narrow and because of the availability of no-fault divorces.
The grounds for annulment vary state by state, but generally involve some type of fraud or bigamy. Other grounds include physical incapacity, impotency, nonage, force or duress, mental incapacity and consanguinity.
Annulment is very different from divorce, even though some grounds for annulment are similar to divorce. Some grounds available in divorce are not available in annulment. In most states, if a spouse is convicted for a serious crime and imprisoned consecutively for three years, imprisonment can be a ground for a divorce. While imprisonment is generally not a ground for annulment of marriage, in some states, if the defendant conceals his or her criminal record such as conviction and imprisonment from another spouse, this is considered fraud and can be grounds for annulment. Further, in some states, inmates imprisoned for life may not marry.
Annulment is a complicated action to invalidate a marriage and return the parties to their pre-marital status. It is rarely sought because the grounds are so narrow and generally must be based on an issue existing at the time of the marriage that would have prevented a valid marriage. In certain circumstances, the concealment of a spouse’s criminal record, including conviction and imprisonment, can be grounds for seeking an annulment.