When you get divorced, your former marriage is not technically erased, but there is an option that wipes the slate clean legally in some situations. Here’s how to get an annulment in Arizona.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to be legal advice. You can contact the Arizona Legal Center today to learn more about your rights in your situation. Note that when you first contact the Arizona Legal Center, a law student (and not a practicing attorney) will handle your intake.
What is an annulment?
An annulment is one way to end a marriage. At its most basic level, an annulment indicates that the marriage contract wasn’t valid in the first place. Once an annulment is granted, both parties can return to their status to “single,” without the added designation of being “divorced.”
What are the differences between annulment vs divorce?
An annulment is similar to a divorce because the relationship ends. The main difference between an annulment and a divorce is your legal status afterwards. A divorced person must indicate that they were once married if specifically asked, but after an annulment a person’s status returns to “single” without the qualifier that they were ever married; because legally they never were married.
In annulment proceedings, the court acknowledges that no valid marriage ever occurred, and thus orders that such a marriage not be recognized. Arizona is a community property state, which means that in a divorce all assets are divided equitably. In an annulment, the court’s goal is to restore both parties to the financial state they had prior to entering the invalid union. This can be tricky if the union was long-lasting. Generally, though, annulments are undertaken shortly after a marriage begins.
These provisions only apply to non-covenant marriages, and not covenant marriages (a rare type of marriage).
Finally, in an annulment, spousal support or alimony payments are generally not awarded to either of the parties, although child support guidelines for children born of the union still apply.
What are the grounds for annulment in Arizona?
Annulments are very rare because they must meet specific criteria that go far beyond “irreconcilable differences” that are common in divorce proceedings.
Under Title 25-301, a marriage can be dissolved or declared void if the cause for the annulment is something that would make it legally impossible to grant a valid marriage contract in the first place. For example, this might include the following federal and state-specific reasons:
- The marriage was between two close relatives (Title 25-101)
- One spouse was already validly married when the marriage occurred
- At least one person was underage (Title 25-101)
- One person had substantially lied or misrepresented facts about themselves
- One member of the couple was mentally incapacitated at the time of the marriage
- One member forced the other to get married
The person applying for the annulment (the petitioner) has the burden of proof. That is, the petitioner must prove that one of these conditions exists in order to receive an annulment. If they cannot, the marriage can only be ended through divorce.
How long do you have to be married to get an annulment in Arizona?
The basis of an annulment is that the marriage is not legally valid in the first place. So marriages both long and short may be annulled if you meet the specific requirements.
Generally, though, annulments take place shortly after a marriage begins.
How to get an annulment in Arizona: Five steps to take
The steps to get an annulment are very similar to the steps for filing for divorce. You must meet the annulment rules in Arizona:
- Either party must have been an Arizona resident for at least 90 days
- You must not be in a covenant marriage (a special type of marriage outlined in Title 25 where both parties agree to pre-marital counseling and stricter rules for divorce)
- You must meet one of the requirements for an annulment as outlined in Title 25-301 and 25-302
Once these requirements are met, there are five steps to an annulment. While the following information is a basic how-to guide, getting an annulment can sometimes be a complex process. Because of this, it’s always best to talk to an attorney about your legal options before getting started.
1: File Arizona annulment forms
First, you need to complete and file the following forms (as well as pay any filing fees):
- Family Court/Sensitive Data Sheet
- Preliminary Injunction
- Petition for Annulment Without Minor Children
- Notice of Right to Convert Health Insurance
- Notice Regarding Creditors
2: Prepare copies for the court
The petitioner must make three copies of every form except the Family Court/Sensitive Data Sheet (which acts as a cover sheet for the original set of forms).
3: File forms
Next, if you’re the petitioner, you will take three sets of papers when you file with the Superior Court.
All fees for filing are due at this time. The Court Clerk will return two sets to you—one for yourself, and one to serve to your spouse.
4: Serve papers
If you are the person filing for the annulment, it is your responsibility to notify your spouse of the annulment.
To do this, you will have the papers served by a registered process server or an authorized law enforcement officer. Or, the other party may voluntarily accept service of the documents and file an acceptance of service with the court.
5: Attend court proceedings for annulment
You will bring a Decree of Annulment to your hearing for the judge to sign if an annulment is granted.
It is important to note that just filing for an annulment does not automatically mean you will get one. Your marriage must meet the requirements for annulment. If it does not, you will need to file for divorce in order to end the marriage. Again, working with an attorney can help you through this process.
Other important things to note include the following:
- Different counties may have different procedures and forms: Maricopa County and Pima County forms are slightly different, so take the time to find the right ones for you. If you’re in another area of Arizona, find your court’s website at https://www.azcourts.gov/AZ-Courts/AZ-Courts-Locator.
- Rules governing children generally still apply: Children of an annulled marriage must still be provided for. You must file forms to establish legal decision-making, parenting time and child support.
Annulment may erase a marriage from the books, but the process can be just as challenging and painful as divorce. The Arizona Legal Center staff knows this and can help you through the process. Our volunteers are here to offer guidance, support, and recommendations if necessary.
If you want to end your marriage and need to know how to get an annulment in Arizona, get in touch with the ALC today.
Disclaimer: The Arizona Legal Center provides free legal aid and consultations in Arizona only. We provide low-cost access to fee-for-service cases when determined appropriate by an attorney at the Center, but generally do not undertake full-scope representation.