How to Get an Annulment in Wisconsin

To get an annulment in Wisconsin, you'll need to have lived in Wisconsin for 30 days before filing a Petition for Annulment. Family law circuit court will hold a hearing to decide if the marriage is invalid. If the marriage is annulled, assets will be divided similar to divorce proceedings, as detailed in Statute 767.313.

There are several misnomers about annulments that can be confusing. First, a church can grant a religious annulment, but this is not a legal action and does not hold up in court. Second, to truly get an annulment in the eyes of the state of Wisconsin, there must be legal grounds that the marriage was never a valid marriage.

What Is an Annulment (Civil Annulment)?

An annulment is a legal declaration by the courts that a marriage has been deemed invalid, or null and void. This means that the courts have decided that your marriage never existed. As is the case with divorce, the courts can order things such as child custody and support, visitation, property division. 

Differences Between Annulment, Legal Separation, and Divorce

Annulment, legal separation, and divorce are three ways for married couples to sever the legal attachment to their spouses. The choice between the three depends on the context of the couple, and their specific situation. 

The difference between an annulment and a divorce is simply that an annulment ends an invalid marriage, while a divorce ends a valid marriage.

A legal separation, however, means that the couple considers the marriage broken, but not irretrievably broken. This is usually a situation where couples need to stay together for religious reasons or health insurance benefits.

Annulments and divorces still require difficult decisions to be made regarding marital property, child custody, child support, and spousal support.

Note: A Dissolution of Marriage is the legal term for the ending of a marriage by the court, more commonly known as divorce. This formally ends the legal relationship between spouses when the marriage ends. This does not “undo” the marriage, as is the case with a Petition for Annulment.

Grounds For An Annulment

An annulment can be a legal solution for situations that occurred before or during the marriage that would deem the marriage invalid [1]. Here are some of the reasons that annulments can be filed in Wisconsin.

Recently Divorced

The Wisconsin statute 765.03 (2) [2] states that spouses cannot legally marry anywhere in the world within six months of their divorce. If spouses have married within six months of being divorced, the marriage is considered null and void [3].

Underage Marriage

In Wisconsin, the legal age for marriage is 18. With proven parental consent, a 16 or 17 year old can also get married. Under Wisconsin Statute 767.313 (1) (c) [4], an annulment can be filed if a spouse is not of age, or does not receive parental consent.

Mental Incapacity

If a spouse entered into the marriage while mentally impaired and did not understand the marriage, Wisconsin Statute 767.313 (1) (a) [5] states that this is grounds to file for an annulment. A “mentally impaired” status would apply to circumstances such as intoxication (Alcohol, drugs, or other incapacitating substances), mental incapacity or infirmary, the use of force or duress, or fraudulent pretenses.

Impotence

Wisconsin Statute 767.313 (1) (b) [6] describes this as lacking the physical ability to consummate the marriage by sexual intercourse. If one spouse was not aware of this at the time of the marriage, this can be grounds for filing an annulment.

Bigamy

Bigamy means that one spouse was already married at the time that they married a second spouse. In Wisconsin Statute 767.313 (1) (d) [7], bigamy is prohibited by the laws of Wisconsin, and would invalidate the second marriage that took place while the first marriage was still valid.

How To File For An Annulment

The process for filing for annulment is similar to divorce. To begin the process of getting an annulment, you need to have lived in Wisconsin for at least 30 days, and file a Petition for Annulment [8] with the circuit court where either you or your spouse lives.

Your filling should contain the full names and addresses of both you and your spouse, as well as occupations and dates of birth. Include the names and dates of birth of any children. You'll also include your grounds and reasoning for requesting to have your marriage annulled.

Like a divorce filing, you can also ask in your petition for things you would like the judge to decide and order. This includes child support, custody and visitation, alimony, and property division. Once this has been completed, you would then file your petition with the proper clerk of court's office, and make sure to have an extra copy to serve to your spouse.

The circuit court will then hold a hearing to decide if your marriage is eligible for annulment. Witnesses and evidence will help prove your case and help the judge decide.

If you are awarded an annulment, the judge will then sign an order, and will then move onto deciding the rest of the issues listed in your petition.

Considerations

When looking into the prospect of an annulment, there are several things to keep in mind about the process in general.

Religious Annulments/ Religious Rules

After obtaining a civil annulment, the two parties may need to obtain a religious annulment if that is in line with their religious beliefs. In the Roman Catholic Church, a religious annulment is a requirement if either party would wish to get married in the Catholic church in the future. The grounds for obtaining a religious annulment are different than what is required for a civil annulment.

A religious annulment requires a diocesan tribunal, instead of the court system, to decide whether or not the marriage bond was a covenant for life due to the issues present from the beginning, and a Declaration of Nullity. The grounds for obtaining a religious annulment include a lack of openness and honesty, appropriate motivation, lack of maturity, involuntarily entering the marriage, emotional instability, and an incapability to establish a loving marital community. 

If the annulment is granted, both parties would be free to marry within the Catholic church again, but they would most likely need to complete marriage counseling to ensure the same mistake does not happen again. 

Matters Involved in Annulment Proceedings

Similar to a divorce, the process of an annulment means that the two spouses will legally separate their lives in order to return to the financial and physical state they were in before the marriage took place. This includes the division of child custody if applicable, and property.

Child Custody and Placement

Child custody is handled in a slightly different way over the course of an annulment, but an annulment typically does not impact an individual's child custody rights. In these situations, the first step would be to determine paternity for the child either by a man acknowledging his paternity or through a DNA test. Once paternity has been established, the courts may declare that the parents share custody in a way that is most beneficial to the child. 

Child placement is handled in a similar manner to divorce. The parents must create a child placement schedule that works with the parents schedules, and is in the best interest of the child. This schedule is then presented to the court to ensure that both parents are in agreement on the schedule and that there has been clear communication on the expectations from both parents.

Go here to learn about joint custody and placement schedules.

Spousal Support

In Wisconsin, because an annulment means that the marriage never legally existed, a judge typically cannot order spousal support for either party involved in the annulment. However, this can differ on a case by case basis. 

Child Support

Similar to cases of divorce, any child involved in the annulment is entitled to financial support. The court will determine how much is owed in child support, if any, to ensure that the child's quality of life is not altered when placed with either parent. 

For an estimate, you can use our child support calculator for Wisconsin.

Property Division

The court is responsible for dividing all property and assets of the two parties in an attempt to return them to the financial state they were in before the marriage. If, over the course of the marriage, the couple did not obtain any marital property or assets, then each party will be awarded with whatever money and property they brought into the marriage.

Remarriage

Because the court has recognized that the marriage was not valid in the first place, the spouses would be free to remarry once the annulment had successfully taken place. In this situation, the spouses would not have to adhere to the 6 month probationary period that customarily follows a divorce.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long can you be married and still get an annulment in Wisconsin?

There is no time limit imposed under the following circumstances:

  • one party lacked the capacity to consent to the marriage (due to age, mental incapacity, infirmity, the influence of alcohol, drugs or other incapacitating substances), or a party was induced to enter the marriage by force, duress, or fraud
  • one party lacks the physical capacity to consummate the marriage by sexual intercourse and at the time of the marriage the other party did not know of the incapacity
  • one party was 16 or under or 17 years of age and did not have the consent of one of their parents, guardian or judicial approval

How do I file for an annulment in Wisconsin?

To file for an annulment in Wisconsin, you must be a resident for over 30 days. Once you have completely filled out a Petition for Annulment with all required information, you or your spouse must file it with the county clerk in the county where you or your spouse lives.

If the court determines that your petition is valid, they will begin the process of determining property and asset division, child custody if applicable, and child support. The annulment will restore the two parties to the position they were in before the marriage took place.

How long before you can get an annulment?

There is no time limit associated for how long a couple would have to wait after their marriage in order to file for an annulment, however they must live in Wisconsin for 30 days before they can file the petition with the county circuit court where one of the parties lives.

What qualifies you for an annulment in Wisconsin?

When spouses who have recently gotten a divorce get remarried before the 6 month probationary period is up, that is a common qualification for an annulment. Other qualifications include an underage spouse, a spouse who was mentally incapacitated at the time of the marriage, a spouse who was already married at the time of the second marriage, and a spouse who is impotent and their partner was not aware of this information before the marriage took place.

Can you annul a marriage for cheating?

Adultery itself is not grounds for an annulment, however, there may be some extenuating circumstances which could contribute to your case. If it's a case of fraud, meaning there is significant information that you were not aware of which resulted in the cheating, this could be grounds to file for an annulment, which would make the entire marriage invalid.

Misrepresentations of facts, or half truths, which directly relate to your decision to marry are other examples of fraud and would be grounds for an annulment.

What makes a marriage invalid?

There are many circumstances that could cause the marriage to be invalid. A marriage that has taken place with a spouse that is underage without consent of a parent, or a spouse who was mentally incapacitated at the time would be considered invalid. Fraud and impotence would also be grounds for an invalid marriage, if this was important information that directly influenced a spouse's decision to marry.

Finally, if a spouse is already married at the time of the second marriage, or if the spouse is divorced and got remarried sooner than 6 months after their divorce, these would also deem a marriage invalid.

How long can you be married and still get an annulment in Wisconsin?

Filing for an annulment is an incredibly subjective process, based on very specific circumstances. In general, there is no time limit that must be adhered to in order to receive an annulment, unless the marriage violates a state law or one party is unable to physically consummate the marriage, also known as impotence.

Once a spouse learns about the incapability, they have one year from that date in which to file for the annulment. Seek out a family law attorney who can explain the available options for your situation.

What is the time frame to have a marriage annulled?

In situations where a spouse is impotent, or physically unable to consummate the marriage, and their spouse was not aware of this fact at the time of the marriage, there is a one year time limit for filing a Petition for Annulment.

These cases are very subjective and are best handled with the consultation of a family law attorney.

What are the grounds for an annulment for Catholics?

The grounds for a civil annulment differ from those of a religious annulment. For those that have received either a divorce or a civil annulment, and would like to be allowed to be remarried in the Catholic church, a diocesan tribunal will need to decide whether or not the marriage was a covenant for life due to issues present at the beginning of the marriage.

The grounds for obtaining a religious annulment include a lack of openness and honesty, appropriate motivation, lack of maturity, involuntarily entering the marriage, emotional instability, and an incapability to establish a loving marital community.

Is cheating grounds for annulment?

The act of cheating is not grounds for an annulment, however there are some circumstances that could help you make a case for an annulment. If the infidelity was the result of information that one party was unaware of at the time of the marriage, this could be a case of fraud and could be grounds for an annulment.

These situations are very subjective, talk with a family law attorney to discuss your situation.

Is it possible to get an annulment years after a divorce?

An annulment is used to terminate an already invalid marriage, whereas a divorce is used to end a valid marriage. While this is often confused, divorce and annulment are not interchangeable.

Divorce is a more common solution that could be suggested by the courts instead of an annulment. Annulling a marriage after a divorce has already happened is a very uncommon situation and should be discussed with a trusted family lawyer.

Do both parties have to agree to an annulment?

Similar to a divorce, it is required that both spouses sign a Petition for Annulment in order to have the marriage annulled. Your filing should contain the full names and addresses of both you and your spouse, as well as occupations and dates of birth.

The petition should also include information for any children involved in the marriage.

Should I get divorced or have an annulment?

Choosing between filing for divorce or filing for an annulment depends on the situation facing the couple in question. If the couple is seeking to separate due to unsolvable issues that have come up over the course of their marriage, that would suggest that a divorce is a more direct path to the outcome they are seeking.

If the couple is seeking legal separation due to details about that marriage that would deem the marriage to be invalid, then an annulment could be more applicable to the situation. Discuss your options with a family attorney.

How can we divorce after a month of marriage?

Depending on the circumstances surrounding the separation, you and your spouse can decide whether you want to pursue a marriage annulment or divorce.

Most courts will suggest that the separating couple opts to file for a divorce because the only qualification needed is that the marriage is irreparable broken.

Under what circumstances can you annul a marriage?

The circumstances, also known as grounds for annulment, are as follows:

  • Underage – one party was too young to marry in Wisconsin
  • Mental Incapacity – one party was mentally unable to consent to a marriage (due to age, mental incapacity, infirmity, the influence of alcohol, drugs or other incapacitating substances)
  • Force or duress – one spouse was forced, coerced or threatened
  • Fraud – one spouse lied and or hid something essential
  • Impotence – one spouse cannot procreate
  • Bigamy – one spouse had a living spouse at the time of marriage
  • Incest – the spouses are first cousins or closer
  • Recently Divorced – one spouse married within six months of a previous divorce

What happens if an annulment is denied?

If a petition for annulment gets denied by the court, that does not mean you are required to stay married. What this does mean is you will need to end the marriage using the divorce process.

A divorce ends a legal marriage recognized by the state and an annulment ends a divorce that was never valid.


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