Even though it makes headlines when celebrities like KENNY CHESNEY and RENEE ZELLWEGER get an annulment of their four month marriage based on fraud, annulments are relatively rare.

Fraud as the Basis for Marriage Annulment

Fraud is usually the basis for a marriage annulment. Examples are failure to disclose a previous marriage, criminal record, infectious disease, the inability to have children, or the desire not to have children. Annulments have also been granted where a spouse entered into the marriage with the mistaken belief that they have been divorced or widowed when in fact they are not, or the spouses are too closely related, or one party is underage, and did not obtain appropriate parental consent.

In Maryland, a void marriage means there is some legal defect that invalidates the marriage such as a spouse that is married to someone else at the time of the second marriage or the parties are blood relatives or one is underage. You do not need to file a petition for an annulment with the court in the case of a void marriage although it may be wise to do so anyway so that you have a court order of annulment.

Voidable Marriage

A voidable marriage, on the other hand, can only be annulled by filing a petition for annulment with the court and having a judge declare the marriage not to have happened. Examples of voidable marriages are sham marriages or joke marriages where the parties did not really intend to marry, like BRITNEY SPEARS’ 55 hour marriage in Las Vegas.

You can file a petition for an annulment if you or your spouse were incapacitated at the time of marriage, as in insanity, intoxication, fraud or duress. Fraud can be hard to prove to a judge especially when the annulment is contested, so most people opt for a divorce instead. A divorce says the marriage is over. An annulment says it never happened.

Even CHESNEY and ZELLWEGER had trouble explaining fraud:

“Fraud was simply legal language and not a reflection of KENNY’s character,” said ZELLWEGER.

“The only fraud that was committed was me thinking that I knew what it was like…that I really understood what it was like to be married, and I really didn’t,” said CHESNEY.

The couple also issued a joint statement through a spokesperson in which they attributed the annulment to a “miscommunication of the objective of their marriage.”

Alimony and Property in a Marriage Annulment

It would be quite logical to think if a marriage is annulled, it is as if it never happened, and there will be no alimony or property division. The law, however, gives the court the right to award alimony and divide property in an annulment. This protects the party who thought the marriage was real.

Whether you are seeking an annulment in Maryland or a marriage annulment in VA or Washington, DC, contact us. Our divorce attorneys can help.

79 replies
  1. Anna Sgibnev
    Anna Sgibnev says:

    I was married 4 years ago and my husband cheated on me and i left him. I did some research online and found documentation that he was legally married at the time of our marriage. So i know the marriage is not valid but do i still have to go through an annullment??? We have been apart for a year and a half now

  2. admin
    admin says:

    Anna: You are not required to annul a void marriage, but it may give you some peace of mind to have a court order voiding it. Also, the court can grant alimony and property division in an annulment.

  3. James J. Gross
    James J. Gross says:

    Anonymous: You prove it by your testimony and his and a doctor if you need to. It is up to the judge whether or not an annulment will be granted, but your facts are not that clear cut and the law does not favor annulments. It might be easier for you just to get a divorce.

  4. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    How do you prove incurable impotency for an annulment in Maryland? If you knew that your husband had problems before the marriage, but didn’t know they were incurable can you still count that as a ground for annulment? Is it still fraud if he didn’t know about it either, i.e. he didn’t device you, but the marriage is still not able to be consummated?

  5. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    how long old must a marriage be to get annulment in maryland pg? my marriage is three months and 3weeks

  6. James J. Gross
    James J. Gross says:

    Anonymous: It’s not about the duration of the marriage. It’s about whether or not there has been fraud that goes to the heart of the marriage.

  7. James J. Gross
    James J. Gross says:

    Anonymous: My thoughts are that it will probably require a divorce rather than an annulment because all the facts that existed at the time of marriage were known to both parties when they got married, and no one tried to deceive anyone.

  8. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    My son got married in Dec. 2009 because the girl he was dating was pregnant and had no health insurance to cover the prenatal care. Needless to say, within less than a month, she lost the baby and he has been living in a nightmare ever since. Will this constitute grounds for an annulment in Maryland and if so, what steps are necessary to get this process started? She currently wants alimony and everything else to keep the marriage from ending so it may be contested? Any thoughts

  9. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I got married in October 2009. My husband and I want to get an annulment or divorce. We have “irreconcilable differences” — the biggest being that he wants children and I do not. Which option is best for us? What steps should we take to properly file?

  10. James J. Gross
    James J. Gross says:

    Anonymous: It is usually easier to obtain a divorce than an annulment, but irreconcilable differences is not one of the grounds for divorce in Maryland. You can enter into a private separation agreement until you have grounds for divorce.

  11. Jam
    Jam says:

    I dated my husband on & off for six years. He always said that even after all this time he was still attracted to me, emotionally, physically, etc. We are both Christians and did for the most part abstain from a physical relationship. For the record we have both been married before, me twice & he once. We both have been separated/divorced from the previous spouses for 10 years. And we are in our early 50’s. Now I agree to marry him and we’ve been married 11 days and had sex once (8 days after we married). He always has some excuse. Tired from all we were doing before the wedding, bloated, you name it. And he tells me – we have a whole lives together to have sex. Is this fraud? Can I get an annulment? I married him to have a physical intimate relationship besides sharing our lives together. Otherwise, we could have just stayed friends.

  12. Steph
    Steph says:

    In 2006, I got married to the father of my three kids. We currently were living in Lexington, Ky. Months later after our ceremony, at our family reunion we found out we were first cousin through a missing family member from my mom side. I was devastated. we decided to part ways and decided that all the kids would stay with me. In sep of 2007, he was deported back to his home country. When we separated, i research Kentucky state law. I was able to confirm our marriage was invalid. I, now, live in Maryland and moved on with my life. I am currently engaged to my fiancé and have future plan of making it official.
    i would like to know if this would be consider annulment or would i have to petition for a divorce. Also, since he no longer resides in the United states, can i petition for any request without his presence?

  13. James J. Gross
    James J. Gross says:

    Steph: That’s interesting because marriage between first cousins is legal in Maryland, but I think the Maryland court might annul your marriage because it was illegal in Kentucky where you got married. You can file the petition but you will have to attempt to have a process server serve a copy on him, which can be pretty expensive in a foreign country.

  14. LeAnne
    LeAnne says:

    My husband and I were married in 2008. A year into our marriage, I found out that he was still married and has been since 2005! I went through the legal proceedings to get a divorce, but it was not granted based on the fact that we had “relations” after finding out of his adultery (the ground for filing for the divorce).

    Those were the grounds that I filed based on the fact that pro bono lawyers said annulment would be difficult in the state of Maryland. I am angry that I can not get out of this when it was not my doing.

    What do I need to do in order to cut ties legally? I have the other wifes name and address and emails stating that they never were divorced. I have very little, in terms of finance being that I am a stay at home mom carrying for our children.

  15. Lu
    Lu says:

    My father anulled the marrige from my mother and I’m the only child born from the marriage so what does it mean for me?I know he is legitimately my father still but how does the church see me now?

  16. James J. Gross
    James J. Gross says:

    LeAnne: Annulment may be difficult in Maryland, but that is probably what you need. Your marriage is void, but there may be financial matters that need to be resolved.

  17. Benita
    Benita says:

    I got married in California as a joke back in April 2010. Never intended it go all the way through until We realized that we didn’t have the paper to take to the courts but that the Priest had mailed it. It’s been almost a year now and i’v been trying to find a way to get an annulment in California but just realized I try to file for one here since i’m a resident and have been for 2 years now (I previously lived in Virginia.)

    I have never lived in California myself. I was out there on Vacation. I knew the guy for about a year and it was just a joke.

    Is this technical grounds for annulment? It was done in Jest. Never meant to go that far.

  18. liana
    liana says:

    can you get annulment if the sole purpose of marriage was for citizenship and i was also unaware of a felony charge he had. the day after we “married” he was incarcerated and now deported.

  19. James J. Gross
    James J. Gross says:

    Benita: Possibly, but if it was that easy, a lot of married people might say they were just joking.

  20. James J. Gross
    James J. Gross says:

    Liana: You might have a good chance on those facts because a judge could find that this is fraud going to the heart of the marriage.

  21. Gee Gee
    Gee Gee says:

    Can I get an annulment, been married 8 years throughout the marriage found out my husband had two other children (we have two together) lost his job but pretended to still be working and that he is addicted to drugs and had gone to rehab previously?

  22. James J. Gross
    James J. Gross says:

    On those facts, I believe you will need a divorce rather than an anulment to terminate the marriage.

  23. chelsea
    chelsea says:

    My husband and I got married Nov 12th in Las Vegas. I did not answer truthfully on the marriage license that i was married and divorced before, can i get an anulment?

  24. James J. Gross
    James J. Gross says:

    Chelsea: You don’t say which part is untruthful. If you were married before but not divorced, then your current marriage is void and you can get an annulment. If you were not married before, then you will probably not be able to get an annulment.

  25. Unhappy Wife
    Unhappy Wife says:

    My husband and I were married in Jamaica in 2002. We discussed this in length before the marriage and we both wanted children.

    We found out a while after we were married that he was unable to have children. When I have suggested alternate methods, he told me that he’s happy the way his life is now.

    I have been in therapy for several months due severe depression and trauma from my past. I also realized that I married him for stability, not love. I told him the marriage is over.

    I have started dating my ex-boyfriend/true love and have been having relations with him. I want to get a divorce without having to suffer through the 1-year waiting period. I know this is going to sound crazy, but can I file for divorce based upon adultery on myself? He refuses to do so out of spite. I really want to be cut loose. I’ve even looked into Dominican, Mexican and Guam divorces, but all of them require a minimum stay (which I can’t afford to take off work). Can you suggest anything?

  26. James J. Gross
    James J. Gross says:

    Unhappy Wife: You cannot file for divorce based on your own adultery. DC and VA have six month waiting periods.

  27. maried for visa
    maried for visa says:

    My husband and I dated for 2 1/2 yrs internationally. He is a British citizen. We were married in the state of MD and 7 months later once he was eligible to work we split and he has his own place. He’s said he “fell out of love with me.” He was emtionally and physically unavaliable the majority of the marriage. Because I believed those vows I took and I loved him its hard to acknowledge what everyone around me see. He used me to get into the country and land hus dream job. Can I get an annulment?

  28. James J. Gross
    James J. Gross says:

    Unknown 111: If you mean an annulment from the court, no. But if you mean the Catholic Church, yes.

  29. Carrie
    Carrie says:

    We have been married for 9 years–we have not consumated the marriage. We dated two years before we got married and the sex was okay. He developed diabetes and says it is a physical condition and does not prefer to explore any alternatives. Believe me, I have tried and to on avail. We sleep in separate bedrooms and he is fine with that. We have no children together but own our home together. We can’t afford to live separate, and think the only way to make this happen is a divorce-but to continue to live together until I find a better job or vice versa. We are both 54 years old –I should have filed for an annulement–but kept hoping things would change. Now, I have no love or attraction for him–but as a good friend. My resentment grew over the years of the emotional/intimacy detachment and when I started checking his history on his computer and finding many porno sites he visits–and he continues to say he does it for fun- yea right?? No he doesn’t have a girlfriend–he was obese and just had a gastric bypass-so I wish him well. I just don’t know how we are going to get a divorce if we are forced to live with each other?? I do have a friend who says she will go to court and state we have been living separate to complete a divorce. Or could we convince the court that our situation of no sex for 9 years is means for a divorce/annulement.

  30. James J. Gross
    James J. Gross says:

    Carrie: I think your best bet is to file for a divorce based on desertion or constructive desertion. But you don’t need grounds or separation to have a Separation Agreement. And that can give you almost everything a divorce can give you.

  31. LM
    LM says:

    Are there grounds for annulment in md? if so does this situation fits a ground?

    just less than a month a go, it was two years since i was married. I recenlty found not one but 3 domestic voilence charges against my current husband-and he never told me about this prior to being married. i suspected something wasnt right, when we tried to get a place together and his back ground came back denied. This made me very curious, and after further investion, i found-as stated above, 3 domestic charges-im very concern that his tainted background will continue to deter us from accomplishing many goals…

  32. James J. Gross
    James J. Gross says:

    LM: There are no grounds like there are for a divorce. An annulment may be granted for fraud that goes to the heart of the marriage. Since that is fairly hard to prove, it is usually easier to get a divorce.

  33. anonymous
    anonymous says:

    Can concealed mental illness be grounds for a claim of fraud in MD? My spouse has recently been exhibiting symptoms of such an illness and I believe it existed at the time of the marriage but she did not reveal it (I later learned my spouse had been hospitalized a few years before the marriage).

  34. Kristen
    Kristen says:

    I have been married for two months. My new husband has a lot of debt that he lied about and never disclosed. Is that grounds for “fraud”.

  35. James J. Gross
    James J. Gross says:

    Kristen: The question is is it fraud that goes to the heart of the marriage. I think it would be easier to get a divorce.

  36. James J. Gross
    James J. Gross says:

    Anonymous: I think that would depend on the nature and severity of the mental illness and how it affects the marriage.

  37. Katherine
    Katherine says:

    I been married for only 5 months and just realize I don’t love this guy It was just that he’s been my best friend for so long and I thought he was the right one since I was depress and didn’t have no one and it seem like the right choice but now having to have sex with somebody I don’t love feels weird and we haven’t have sex for almost 3 months and I want to get an annulment instead of a divorce since is better to have that in a record than a divorce we live in new York and we haven’t live together we both live on our parents house I want to get an annulment based on fraud but how can I prove my grounds?

  38. Trina
    Trina says:

    Can I get an annulement based on my husband being gay. He never told be about it, I found out after we got married, not in a very pleasant way… He only married me so his parent wouldn’t worry about him (he is in his 30th, and parents don’t know about his sexual preferences) We had sex only a couple of times before the marriage, and not once after that.
    If yes, how can I prove it to court? (I don’t have any pictures of him with his lover or anything like that)

  39. Help Me
    Help Me says:

    I recently learned that my wife did not legally divorce her ex because the papers were signed fraudulently not by him. Is that grounds for a annullment or divorce?

  40. James J. Gross
    James J. Gross says:

    Katherine: I don’t see any fraud in your facts but ask a New York lawyer. The law is different in every state.

  41. James J. Gross
    James J. Gross says:

    Trina: That may be grounds for an annulment. You prove it with your testimony and his if he is willing to testify.

  42. James J. Gross
    James J. Gross says:

    Amy: It can be anywhere from three months to a year or longer depending on whether it is contested or not.

  43. James J. Gross
    James J. Gross says:

    Trina: Then your testimony is proof. You are not required to have a lawyer, but I always think it best if you can afford it.

  44. Trina
    Trina says:

    Thank you, James. But what do I do if he is not willing to testify? How bad I need a lawyer in this type of situation? Or can I submit all the paperwork myself?

  45. krystal
    krystal says:

    i have a question if u was forced to be married is it possible for one of the spouse to file for an annulment w/o the other spouse knowing

  46. Alan
    Alan says:

    I married my wife almost 1 year ago in Va. We now live in Md. She left the night we got married and did not return for over 2 weeks, and has been in and out of our home multiple times over the last year, living with her supposed “best friend” in Va, stating that we are having problems and I do not understand how she feels and do not understand him. She denies that they are having a sexual relationship, but I have read text messages on her phone that prove otherwise. She has stated in the past (after we got married) that she never wanted to be married and that she is not in love with me. She keeps coming and going as she feels like. Can I obtain an annulment in Maryland based on these facts?

  47. Sandy
    Sandy says:

    Me and my wife have been dating on and off for 5 years. We got married in january at a baptist church i didn’t belong to. I am pentacostal and my Pastor whom I went through counseling with denied to marry us. Is this grounds seeing that it wasn’t supposed to happen but we did it anyways?

  48. Sandy
    Sandy says:

    I also entered into this marriage knowing i didn’t want to have children with her when she thought I would..

  49. Patrick
    Patrick says:


    I got married to a person that I’m now finding out is a conartist. We got Maried in Maryland in April of 2007, but we have now been seperated for a Year from November 2010 to 2011. After speaking with council they enquired about her previous marriage and ask a few questions that turned on a bulb. After searching I found out that while she did tell me that she was maried and but in the process of getting a divorce, when we got Married her divorce was not finalyse. We got married in April, her foreign divorce (Haiti a country has never been too or resided in) was registered in Mai and the divorce was finalysed in July… AM I MARRIED to her yes or no?? Can i get an annulment???

    I thank you in advance.

  50. James J. Gross
    James J. Gross says:

    Patrick: A marriage is void if one spouse was already married and not divorced at the time of the marriage. You can ask the court to declare it void if you need a court order.

  51. Pris
    Pris says:

    I had a long distance relationship with my fiance (out of the country) and eventually filed for him and married him here in Maryland. Weeks after the marriage some habits surfaced that he denied to me prior to marriage (I had mentioned to him that I would never marry a smoker and would not marry him if I found out he was a smoker, and he told me that he doesn’t smoke). Also, a month into the marriage he told me that he didnt want to be married anymore and in the 2nd month he left the country.
    Can I have the marriage annuled on the basis of fraud? Also, do I have to prove the fraud claims if he won’t fight my claims and if he won’t show up?
    1. For intentionally witholding the truth regarding his smoking after I had expressly stated I would not marry him if he was a smoker
    2. Annulment as a result of levity with which he entered the marriage?

  52. SadAtheist
    SadAtheist says:

    My husband cohabited for seven years before getting married. In that time, we both were devout Christians and attended services every week. Right before we married, I declared myself Atheist but kept it secret from him. Now that we have been married for nine months, he has started to punish (belittle, cheat, and hit) me for my lack of belief. Technically I was Atheist before we got married, would it be possible to get an annulment on the grounds of me misconceiving him?

  53. James J. Gross
    James J. Gross says:

    SadAtheist: The question for the judge would be whether the misrepresentation about religion is a fraud that goes to the heart of a marriage. There are lots of married spouses with different religions. So if a client came to me with this case, I would tell them they are more likely to be granted a divorce than an annulment.

  54. James J. Gross
    James J. Gross says:

    Pris: There was probably a solemn marriage ceremony so I am not sure the judge would find fraud based on his levity. And the issue of smoking does not seem to me to go to the heart of the marriage. There are lots of spouses who are married and want there counterpart to stop smoking. And yes you have to prove your case and corroborate it even if he doesn’t show up. In most cases in Maryland, divorces are easier to get than annulments.

  55. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    I filed for my husband to come into the country on a fiance visa. After he came we married within 90 days. i then found out he had a child he did not disclose to me and was married – paid only the bride pice for someone else in another country. Is this possible grounds for annulment? My family investigated this and found out he did in fact pay to marry the girl whom he had a child with. How easy would it be to proove he married me for immigration papers?

  56. James J. Gross
    James J. Gross says:

    Rachel: Was he divorced when he married you? If not, your marriage is void. If so, the court would have to consider all the facts to decide if he married you only for immigration papers.

  57. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    My husband and I have been married for almost 2 years. I recently found out that he has been in another relationship with another woman for 2 years; the full length of our marriage. I put him out the same day I found out. Can I get an annulment based on fraud?

  58. KT
    KT says:

    My husband and I have been married 3 1/2 years, and I learned the entire time we were dating and engaged he cheated on me with numerous women multiple times. Had I known he had been cheating on me before getting married I would have never even considered marrying him. He pretty much scammed me into marrying him, and obviously not the man I thought I was going to marry. Is this grounds for fraud and am I able to get an annulment?

  59. Stephy Steph
    Stephy Steph says:

    So I have been married for about 2 months here in MD. My husband and I have never had sex, even when we were dating. I am now considering whether or not our marriage has grounds for annulment because we are now separated due to my husband and his family wanting me to go to church even though my work hours do not permit me to. My husband has told me that because I do not wish to go to church, he does not want to be with me. We do not live together, never have because we were looking for a place, but separated before finding one. I think he married me for leagl status anyways because I found out that he over-stayed his visa, which makes him an undocumented person. He informed me that he has papers that he has to fill out and mail to get his legal status, but does not share them with me. Do you think this is enough for an annulment Mr. Gross?

  60. James J. Gross
    James J. Gross says:

    Stephy: You have enough to suspect the marriage was a fraud. I am not sure you have enough to prove it yet. You may get that with discovery. It is possible to file for an annulment or a divorce in the same case, so that if you can’t prove fraud, you can still get a divorce.

  61. Allen Daniels
    Allen Daniels says:

    I got married in 2009 and we’ve been seperated over a year. Before leaving, I discovered that my wife has a criminal history which was not disclosed prior to the marriage, which speaks to some of her behavior recently. I recently filed for divorce and she is contesting and things are turning ugly. Should I pursue the annulment route instead and is it quicker? I’m working on obtaining her criminal records…

  62. Stephy Steph
    Stephy Steph says:

    Thank you for your previous response Mr. Gross. But I do have another question… if I were to apply for annulment and divorce, but I am unable to prove fraud, will I still have to wait the full year to get the divorce finalized?

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