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.
In some states, impotency can be grounds for annulment. If a spouse is physically impotent and the other spouse was unaware of the impotency prior to the marriage, the marriage can be voidable in some states. If a marriage was never consummated, this can constitute viable grounds for annulment. Impotency occurring after marriage is generally not in itself ground for annulment.
Some courts have ruled that an annulment based on impotency can be granted based not only on actual physical impairment, but it can also be based upon emotional or psychological factors.
When requesting an annulment of marriage on the ground of impotency, the requesting spouse must show that the impotence or physical incapacity is permanent and incurable. The plaintiff has the burden of proving that the defendant's condition is incurable and it exist at the time of marriage. In many states the courts are granted the power to order a physical examination of the defendant and a failure to take the physical examination will justify the court's concluding that the defendant is impotent.
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 some states, impotency can be the basis on which to seek an annulment.
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