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Rhode Island Annulments
Annulments in Rhode Island

An annulment is not the same as a divorce. Divorce terminates a valid marriage. Even though there’s no such thing as legal annulment in Rhode Island, a marriage may be declared void during a divorce proceeding; a void marriage has the same effect as an annulment. When the courts declare a marriage void, it means the marriage ever existed. Both spouses can say that they were never legally married.

In Rhode Island, children of a void marriage are always considered legitimate; both parents, therefore, must support them, and both parents have rights to custody and visitation. The children may inherit from either parent.

The law on null marriages in Rhode Island can be found in Rhode Island General Laws, 15-1-3 through 15-1-6.

Grounds

A marriage may be declared void in any of the following circumstances:

  • incest, which means the partners are closer in relation than first cousin;
  • bigamy, which means one or both partners were married to some other living person at the time of the marriage;
  • mental incompetence, which means one or both spouses were mentally incompetent at the time of marriage, for example, severe mental illness or retardation; or
  • refusal to consummate marriage, which means a spouse refuses to have sexual intercourse.

Unlike many other states that allow annulments, one spouse’s impotence or drug addiction does not support a request to declare a marriage void in Rhode Island.

Procedure

Invalidating a marriage in Rhode Island requires that the partners go through the same routine they would in a divorce. This means the petitioner files and states the grounds for the action.

The petitioner must convince a judge that the marriage should be nullified. This requires evidence that supports the ground. This may include documentary evidence and witness testimony.

If the court believes that the marriage was invalid from the start, the judge declares it void.

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