What is an Annulment?
In Oregon, an annulment is a legal process a spouse may use to terminate a void or voidable marriage. Like after a divorce, the spouses' marital statuses change to unmarried. However, state law treats annulled marriages like they never happened.
Marriage is a legal contract between spouses, and they must meet the state requirements to make such a contract. Under state law, the parties must be at least 17 years old and have the capacity to be a party to the contract. A voidable marriage occurs when one or both spouse does not have the legal capacity to enter into or consent to marriage. Circumstances that make a marriage voidable are:
- Either spouse is not of the legal age to marry in Oregon; or
- Either spouse does not have sufficient understanding; or
- The consent to get married was by force or fraud
Spouses in a voidable marriage have two options: 1) continue the marriage by ratification; or 2) terminate the marriage by annulment. The ratification changes a voidable marriage to a legal and valid one. If one or both spouses is underage, they can ratify the marriage by reaching the legal age. Ratification also occurs if a spouse knows the marriage was by force or fraud and voluntarily agrees to remain in the marriage.
Void marriages are invalid from the beginning, and the law treats the marriage as if it never existed. Under the law, the individuals were spouses to each other. Oregon declares a marriage void and prohibited if:
- Either person had a living spouse at the time they married; or
- The individuals are first cousins or closer relation to each other by whole blood, half-blood, or adoption (exception: Oregon law allows marriage of first cousins by adoption)
State law requires one party in a void or voidable marriage to go to court to get an annulment. A spouse in a voidable marriage cannot seek an annulment if it is valid by ratification. Because a void marriage never legally existed, it does not require an annulment to terminate the marriage. However, in cases where the couple has children, property, or debts, they can go through the annulment process to determine child custody, child support, parenting plans, and division and distribution of property and debts.