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How to Get an Annulment in Wisconsin

Questions answered in this article:
What is an annulment? | What qualifications do you need to get an annulment in Wisconsin? | Can you get a marriage annulled without the other person? | How long after marriage can you get an annulment? | Can you annul a divorce? | How long does the annulment process take? | How much does getting an annulment cost?
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Annulment vs Divorce | How to Get a Marriage Annulled in Wisconsin

What is an annulment?

A legal annulment is a legal procedure for declaring a marriage null and void from the inception.

Annulments are very rare and are difficult to obtain because the circumstances under which one can seek an annulment are very limited. In Wisconsin, a legal annulment can only be granted on the following grounds:

  • A party lacked the legal capacity to consent to the marriage (this could be due to age, mental incapacity, medical infirmity, or due to the influence of drugs or alcohol); or
  • A party was induced to enter the marriage by force, duress, or fraud involving the “essentials of marriage.”
  • A party lacks to physical capacity to consummate the marriage by sexual intercourse and the other party did not know of this incapacity at the time of marriage.
  • A party was 16 or 17 years old at the time of the marriage and did not have the required parental consent to marry.
  • The marriage is prohibited by the laws of this state (for example, one of the parties was divorced within the prior six months; or one of the parties is already married to another person).

Annulment vs Divorce

Annulments and divorces are both “actions for dissolution”—that is, they both legally dissolve a marriage. An annulment is a legal procedure that declares the marriage null and void from the beginning. A divorce is a legal procedure that terminates a valid marriage.

Under the statutes, however, the court must evaluate some of the same issues in annulment proceedings and divorce proceedings. For example:

  • If the parties have children together, the court must make orders regarding custody, placement, and child support even if the marriage is annulled by applying the same calculations, rules, and analysis that applies to divorced parties.
  • The court must assign or divide property in an annulment action using the same rules that apply to dividing property in a divorce.
  • The court overseeing an annulment action must also consider the issue of spousal maintenance and must either award it or deny it pursuant to the same maintenance statutes that apply in a divorce. This can beget the odd result of a party being ordered to pay spousal support to a party who has been declared a legal non-spouse via annulment.

What qualifications do you need to get an annulment in Wisconsin?

To obtain an annulment you must meet one of the following criteria:

  • A party lacked the legal capacity to consent to the marriage (this could be due to age, mental incapacity, medical infirmity, or due to the influence of drugs or alcohol); or
  • A party was induced to enter the marriage by force, duress, or fraud involving the “essentials of marriage.”
  • A party lacks to physical capacity to consummate the marriage by sexual intercourse and the other party did not know of this incapacity at the time of marriage.
  • A party was 16 or 17 years old at the time of the marriage and did not have the required parental consent to marry.
  • The marriage is prohibited by the laws of this state (for example, one of the parties was divorced within the prior six months; or one of the parties is already married to another person).

You must also meet the relevant time constraints. The allegations above must all be asserted within either one year of the marriage or one year of learning about the condition meeting the criteria except that if the marriage is prohibited by the laws of Wisconsin, the action must be brought within 10 years.

If the parties do not meet the above criteria, they cannot get an annulment even if they agree that they both want one.

Can you get a marriage annulled without the other person?

Short answer: Yes.

You can unilaterally obtain an annulment in the same way you can unilaterally obtain a divorce or legal separation. You must file the action and either prove you gave notice to the other party or prove that you made reasonable attempts to serve them and could not (in which case you will have to publish notice of the action in a special newspaper). If the other party has actual or constructive notice of the proceedings and chooses not to appear or participate, you can still get a judgment of annulment from the court as long as you can prove you meet one of the listed criteria.

How long after marriage can you get an annulment?

Short answer: It depends.

In most cases, and annulment must be initiated within one year of the legal marriage. There are certain circumstances which may extend that time. In other cases, the annulment may be initiated as much as ten years after the marriage. To verify the deadline that applies to you, consult with an experienced family lawyer.

Can you annul a divorce?

Short answer: No.

Divorce is an alternative to an annulment. So, if you have gotten divorced, you have already terminated the marriage and cannot subsequently annul it.

However, a legal annulment is different from a religious annulment. It is possible your religion may require you to get a civil divorce before you can be eligible for a spiritual or religious annulment. In this case, you will get a legal divorce and a religious annulment

How to Get a Marriage Annulled in Wisconsin

4 Steps to The Annulment Process in Wisconsin

Once you’ve decided that you’re eligible for annulment, you’ll need to initiate annulment proceedings:

  • Step 1a. To file for annulment, you’ll begin with a petition for annulment filed in the county you or your spouse reside in. On this petition, you’ll list your information, your spouse’s information, and any necessary information about your children, if you have any together.
  • Step 1b. You’ll also need to state on what grounds you’re filing for annulment, so be sure to discuss your grounds for annulment with your attorney.
  • Step 2. Once you’ve filed your petition, you must serve the papers on your spouse. A private process server, the county Sheriff’s department, or your lawyer can help you with this step.
  • Step 3. Once you and your spouse are both aware of the petition, you’ll have a hearing to determine whether you meet the criteria for an annulment. If you and your spouse disagree that you meet the criteria, you may have additional hearings to prove whether or not the criteria can be met.
  • Step 4. If the court determines that you meet the criteria for an annulment, it will then hold a hearing to determine what the “terms” of the annulment should be (that is, what orders concerning custody, placement, property division, and maintenance should be made).
    Step 5. If the court determines you do not meet the criteria for an annulment, it will either dismiss your Petition or possibly allow you to convert it to a petition for legal separation or divorce.

How long does the annulment process take?

Short answer: It depends.

If you obviously meet the criteria for annulment and if you and your spouse are in agreement the marriage should be annulled and you have no disputes regarding how to divide or settle your affairs, you annulment proceedings could be concluded in approximately 4 to 6 months.

If there is a dispute about whether or not you meet the criteria for annulment; if you and your spouse have a dispute over children or property; or if you cannot locate your spouse for service, the process could take much longer (up to one year or more).

How much does getting an annulment cost?

Short answer: It depends.

Because the process is very similar to the divorce process, you can expect to pay a similar amount for a divorce and an annulment. However, the costs of any kind of marriage dissolution proceeding depends on many different factors: Whether both parties have attorneys, whether they are both cooperative with the process, whether they are generally agreeable or have much to fight about, etc. The cost can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars per party.

For an estimate of costs it is important to know the specific facts of your case.

Talk to an Annulment Attorney

When you’re seeking an annulment, you’ll need to gather evidence and be prepared to assert your grounds for annulment. Unfortunately, that can be difficult to do alone. Our award-winning attorneys at Karp & Iancu can help you determine the grounds for your annulment and prepare the evidence to help you prove your case.

If you are ready to seek an annulment, schedule a free consultation with us or complete the form below.

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