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Grounds for Annulment in Texas

Sophia Merton
June 21, 2024

Divorce is by far the most common way for marriages to end in the United States. However, you might consider learning about the grounds for annulment in Texas before filing your paperwork, as qualifying couples can find the process much simpler than divorce.

At the same time, there are only a few specific circumstances where annulments are allowed in the Lone Star State.

The seven grounds for annulment in Texas are:

  • One spouse is under 18 years old
  • One spouse was under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • One spouse is impotent
  • The marriage was a result of fraud, duress, or force
  • One spouse lacked the mental capacity to consent to the marriage
  • One spouse concealed a recent divorce
  • The marriage occurred less than 72 hours after obtaining the marriage license

Let’s take a look at what you need to know about the seven grounds for annulment to help you determine the right course of action in your situation.

What Is an Annulment?

An annulment is a legal procedure to invalidate a marriage.

couple in law office discussing Grounds for Annulment in Texas

Unlike divorce, which dissolves a legally valid marriage, an annulment declares that the marriage was never legally valid from the start. Annulments are available only under specific circumstances.

In Texas, there are seven grounds for annulment, each with its own set of criteria. Some grounds also have stringent time constraints.

Are you searching for more resources about marriage, divorce, and family law in Texas? Check out some of these guides:

When Can You Get an Annulment in Texas?

Texas law permits annulments under the following circumstances:

  1. One spouse is under 18 years old
  2. One spouse was under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  3. One spouse is impotent
  4. The marriage was a result of fraud, duress, or force
  5. One spouse lacked the mental capacity to consent to the marriage
  6. One spouse concealed a recent divorce
  7. The marriage occurred less than 72 hours after obtaining the marriage license

Understanding the Requirements for Annulments in Texas

To obtain an annulment in a Texas court, either you or your spouse must meet one of these conditions:

  • Your marriage occurred in Texas; or
  • Texas is the permanent residence of one or both spouses.

The spouse who files for annulment is called the “petitioner,” and the other spouse is the “respondent.”

woman on phone reading about Grounds for Annulment in Texas

You can file a petition for annulment in the county where the marriage took place or where one or both spouses reside. The filing fee varies by county, but you may qualify for a fee waiver, making it free of charge.

The same courts that handle divorce cases also process annulments. In most Texas counties, district courts manage family law cases. Your local district clerk’s office can provide specific filing requirements.

After filing the petition, you must serve the papers to your spouse. This can be done by a constable, sheriff, or private process server, or your spouse can sign a waiver of service.

What are the Grounds for Annulment in Texas?

Now, let’s break down the specific information you’ll need about each of the seven grounds for annulment in Texas.

One Spouse Is Under 18 Years Old

A court may annul a marriage under these conditions:

  • One spouse was at least 16 but under 18 years old at the time of the marriage.
  • The parents of that spouse did not consent to the marriage, nor was there a court order permitting them to marry without parental consent.
  • The annulment petition is filed by a parent, guardian, or another authorized individual.
  • The petition is submitted within 90 days of the marriage.

If the underage spouse turns 18 within the 90-day period, they may file the petition themselves but cannot seek annulment after the 90 days have passed.

A marriage under these conditions is not automatically invalid in Texas. A judge has the discretion to grant an annulment. State law requires the judge to consider "the pertinent facts" about the spouses, including whether the female spouse is pregnant.

One Spouse Was Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs

An intoxicated individual cannot consent to a wide variety of different activities, including marriage. To obtain an annulment due to alcohol or drug impairment, one must demonstrate the following to the court:

  • They were too impaired at the time of the marriage to provide valid consent.
  • They have not behaved as though they were married after the effects of the alcohol or drugs wore off.

The second point here is extremely crucial.

gavel in courtroom discussion of Grounds for Annulment in Texas

You must prove to the court that you would not have married if you had not been intoxicated. You won’t be granted an annulment by a court if you chose to live with your spouse after sobering up or if you willingly acted as a married couple.

One Spouse Is Impotent

The term “impotence" refers to the inability to engage in sexual intercourse. A court can annul a marriage if a spouse can prove the following:

  • The spouse was impotent at the time of the marriage
  • The impotence is permanent, preventing the consummation of the marriage
  • The petitioner was unaware of the impotence when they got married
  • The petitioner has not voluntarily lived with their spouse since discovering the impotence

The petitioner must show the court that they would not have married if they had known about the impotence. Therefore, they must not have cohabited after learning of it.

Either spouse can file for this type of annulment. They can seek an annulment due to their spouse's or their own impotence.

The Marriage Was a Result of Fraud, Duress, or Force

Both spouses must give voluntary and informed consent to marry. Using "fraud, duress, or force" can render a marriage legally invalid. This can involve actions by the other spouse, another person, or a group of people.

  • "Fraud" involves lying about, withholding, or hiding important information that would have affected the petitioner's decision to marry.
  • "Duress" includes threats or other forms of pressure, such as threats of violence, where the petitioner felt compelled to marry to avoid harm.
  • "Force" involves actual physical force or the threat of immediate injury.

The petitioner must prove they married solely due to fraud, duress, or force. A court will not grant an annulment if the petitioner voluntarily lived with their spouse after the marriage began.

One Spouse Lacked the Mental Capacity to Consent to the Marriage

A person must have the legal capacity to consent to marriage at the time of the wedding.

lawyer and gavel writing about Grounds for Annulment in Texas

An annulment can be granted if someone is too intoxicated to consent. Intoxication is one example where a person cannot consent to marriage.

Texas allows annulments if a person lacks the mental capacity to:

  • Consent to marriage; or
  • Understand the marriage ceremony.

Conditions that may impair consent include traumatic brain injuries, severe learning disabilities, severe mental illness, stroke aftermath, Alzheimer's disease, or dementia.

If the incapacity was temporary, the person could file for annulment after recovery. However, usually, someone else, like a court-appointed guardian, must file on behalf of the incapacitated person. The other spouse can also petition for annulment if they were unaware of the incapacity and have not lived with the spouse since learning of it.

A court-appointed guardian can consent to marriage on behalf of the person. For instance, in a recent case, a guardian successfully petitioned for an annulment after the person under their care got married without the guardian's knowledge or consent.

One Spouse Concealed a Recent Divorce

A spouse may obtain an annulment if these conditions are met:

  • Their spouse divorced someone else less than 30 days before marrying them.
  • The petitioner was unaware of the previous divorce at the time of marriage.
  • The respondent attempted to hide the earlier divorce.
  • The petitioner has not lived with the respondent since discovering the divorce.
  • The petitioner files for annulment within one year of the marriage.

This ground for annulment is similar to one based on fraud but has key distinctions. It specifically applies to concealed divorces shortly before marriage and is not available after one year. If the hidden divorce is discovered more than a year after the wedding, an annulment on this ground is not possible, though a claim of fraud might still be viable.

The Marriage Occurred Less Than 72 Hours After Obtaining the Marriage License

Texas law mandates a 72-hour waiting period after obtaining a marriage license before getting married.

Exceptions to this requirement include:

  • Active-duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces
  • Employees and civilian contractors of the U.S. Department of Defense
  • Individuals with a court order waiving the 72-hour waiting period
  • Individuals who complete a state-approved premarital education course

If the marriage ceremony occurs within the 72-hour period and neither spouse qualifies for these exceptions, either spouse may petition for an annulment. This petition must be filed within 30 days of the marriage.

Navigating Family Law in Texas

Understanding the grounds for annulment in Texas can help you determine whether annulment is a viable option for you and your spouse. If you don’t qualify for an annulment, you will want to learn more about a suit to declare a marriage void or the process of divorce.

Are you searching for more resources about family law in Texas? If so, make sure you check out the rest of our Texas Divorce Laws blog.

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Written By:
Sophia Merton
Sophia received her BA from Vassar College. She is a researcher and writer that aims to help make the complexities of the legal system understandable to the layperson. Believing that people can be empowered by understanding their rights and responsibilities under the law, Sophia aims to offer accurate and well-researched information in straightforward and easy-to-digest legal articles.

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