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Pennsylvania Annulments
Annulments in Pennsylvania

Like a divorce, an annulment ends a marriage. However, an annulment is a legal proceeding that declares a marriage invalid or void.

The law on Pennsylvania annulments can be found in 23 Pa.C.S.A. 3301 et seq. and 23 Pa.C.S.A. 3303 et seq.

Grounds

Pennsylvania recognizes several grounds for annulment that end void and voidable marriages. To obtain an annulment, one of the grounds must be proved.

Void marriages, which are those prohibited by law, are not legally recognized in Pennsylvania; however, in some instances, continued cohabitation after the impediment is removed can make an otherwise void marriage valid.

Grounds for ending a void marriage include:

  • one or both spouses to the alleged common law marriage were under age 18;
  • a spouse was unable to consent to marriage due to mental incapacity or incompetence;
  • a marriage to a first cousin or closer relative; or
  • the marriage is bigamous or polygamous, meaning one or both spouses is already married to another living person at the time of the marriage, even if the spouse was separated from their former spouse.

Voidable marriages are those that are valid but can be declared invalid under certain circumstances. Grounds for annulment of voidable marriages can be waived by continued cohabitation after the condition is discovered or cured.

Voidable grounds include:

  • one or both spouses were under age 16; that is, one person did not have court and parental consent to marry and was under 16 years of age at the time of the marriage;
  • one or both spouses were under age 18 and the marriage was performed without parental consent; that is, if one party or both was under 18 but at least 16, and did not receive parental or court consent, he or she may request an annulment of marriage within 60 days of the marriage ceremony;
  • the marriage began under the influence of liquor or drugs; that is, if either party was intoxicated at the time of the marriage and requests an annulment of marriage within 60 days, the marriage may be considered voidable;
  • either spouse is physically unable to have sexual intercourse; that is, if a party is unable to consummate the marriage, and this impotence is “natural and incurable ”;
  • the marriage consent was obtained by duress, coercion or fraud; that is, one party was being defrauded, coerced or forced into marriage.

An annulment does not affect the legitimacy of children born during the marriage. Children born while parents are married are legitimate even if that marriage is later annulled or declared void. Additionally, an annulment does nothing to affect custody or child support and instead establishes a presumption of paternity.

When an underage spouse reaches 18, if the spouses continue to freely cohabit after both have reached the age of consent, such a claim is waived.

Fraud can be waived if the spouses continue to cohabit after discovering it; that is, if the innocent spouse discovers the fraud and remains with the offending spouse, the fraud may be waived because the innocent spouse has ratified the marriage, preventing an annulment on fraud grounds.

Procedure

Void marriages are invalid immediately and do not require a court order to be annulled. By contrast, the annulment of a voidable marriage requires a trial and hearing before a judge to prove the grounds for annulment. Before an annulment action can be filed, one or both of the spouses must have resided in Pennsylvania for at least six months. In certain circumstances, 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.

An annulment ruling demands at least one of the grounds to be proven in court. This requires filings with the court and a court hearing with evidence including documents and/or witnesses supporting a claim for an annulment.

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