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North Dakota Annulments
Annulments in North Dakota

An annulment is difficult to obtain in North Dakota. Like a traditional divorce, an annulment ends a marriage. However, unlike a divorce, an annulment declares that a marriage is invalid or void, as if the marriage never happened.

In North Dakota, an annulment does not affect the legitimacy of children born during the marriage. Even if a marriage is later annulled, children born while parents are married are legitimate. Additionally, an annulment does not affect custody or child support and works from a presumption of paternity.

The terms and condition of an annulment are in North Dakota Statutes 14-04 et seq.

Grounds

Here are the seven grounds for annulment in North Dakota:

  • Underage: one or both spouses married under the age of consent, which is 18; if either person is under 16 at the time of the ceremony, the relationship is void;
  • Bigamy or polygamy: one or both spouses are married to another living person at the time of their marriage;
  • Mental incapacity: one or both spouses were not mentally fit to consent to a marriage;
  • Fraud: one partner misrepresents himself or herself;
  • Duress or coercion: If either spouse was coerced into marriage through the threat of physical harm, or consent to the marriage was obtained by force;
  • Physical incapacity: a spouse was/is physically unable to have sexual intercourse and fulfilling the obligations of marriage;
  • Incest: marriages between acknowledged relatives and illegitimate children.

In some cases, statutes of limitations limit when such actions must commence. These include:

  • A person seeking an annulment on grounds of a spouse's physical incapability or physical coercion must file within four years of the ceremony.
  • If the marriage was performed involving an underage person, the minor’s parents may file this motion at any time while the child is still underage. Once a person has reached the age of consent, however, he or she has four years to file a petition for an annulment. If the spouses continue to freely cohabit after both have reached a majority - when underage spouse reaches 18 - the underage claim may be waived. If the spouses do not continue to cohabit, an annulment can be filed within four years.
  • People who discover they married someone who fraudulently misrepresented themselves have four years from the date of discovery. Fraud can be waived if the spouses continue to live together for four or more years after discovering it. Specifically, in a situation where fraud would be sufficient for an annulment, if the innocent spouse discovers the fraud but does not separate and live apart, the innocent spouse has ratified the marriage, which prevents an annulment.
  • An annulment on the grounds of bigamy, mental illness and incest can be initiated at any time. However, mentally ill partners who return to sound mental health and voluntarily continue living with a partner may be disqualified for an annulment.

Procedure

An annulment in North Dakota requires a trial and hearing. Unlike a divorce, which can be granted upon written or sworn testimony without a trial, an annulment demands proof in court.

The petitioner must file a petition for annulment. In the petition, the petitioner provides information about the partners and the marriage, any children, and the grounds for the annulment.

After filing the petition, the petitioner arranges for service of the respondent. An adult, other than the petitioner, hand delivers the complaint and annulment papers to the defendant. The person serving the papers then completes an Affidavit of Service, which is returned to the court. Service of the papers includes a summons.

In court, the petitioner brings evidence including documents and/or witnesses that can support his or her claims. An action for annulment can be brought by parents if their child was under age 18 and their consent was not obtained for the marriage or if their child lacks mental capacity.

In the hearing, both partners testify and present other evidence so that the judge can determine whether an annulment is appropriate. If it is, the court grants an order voiding the marriage.

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