An annulment is a legal procedure that causes a marriage to be as if it never existed. A marriage is a contract. Unlike a dissolution of marriage (divorce) or legal separation, an annulment does not terminate the marriage. Rather, an annulment rescinds the marriage, making it as though the marriage never took place.
The most common reason that a marriage is annulled is fraud. This usually means a failure to disclose some important fact to your spouse like a communicable disease, an inability to have children, or a criminal past. Other common reasons are bigamy, incest or duress. With few exceptions, anyone who marries before the age of consent can have their marriage annulled. A good rule of thumb is, if you would not have married the person knowing what you now know, and that reason is serious enough to constitute fraud, either by commission (for example, lying) or omission (neglecting to tell you the truth), you may be a candidate for an annulment.
Most people do not get an annulment unless they have been married for a short period of time and can prove one of the grounds set forth above. Unlike a dissolution or legal separation which are no fault proceedings, an annulment requires proof of fault in the form of fraud. If an annulment is inappropriate, then a divorce or legal separation should be filed.
* The information contained in this message is general and should not substitute for the advice and counsel of a licensed attorney.