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Annulments in Louisiana
The Louisiana Civil Code, Articles 86-97, describes annulment law in Louisiana. Louisiana recognizes several reasons for granting an annulment; however, like most jurisdictions, the grounds are difficult to meet.
In Louisiana, annulled marriages are said to be null. A null marriage is different from a divorce: a divorce ends a legal marriage; a null marriage means the marriage should never have been valid. In Louisiana, there are two types of null marriages: an absolutely null marriage, which is one that is null from the date of marriage, and a relatively null marriage, which is valid until a judge declares it null.
A null marriage means the spouses were never legally married. In Louisiana, however, the spouse who did not know the marriage should have been null can still share the benefits of a valid marriage. The innocent spouse can still ask for alimony and a share of the spouses property. Children of a null marriage are still considered legitimate. They can still inherit from both parents, and both parents still have to financially support the children.
The grounds for a null marriage in Louisiana include the following:
Absolutely null marriages are void and automatically annulled. Absolutely null marriages include marriages where one spouse is bigamous, where marriages were conducted without a ceremony, or marriages where the spouses are related as first cousins or closer. Under Louisiana law, any marriage that is conducted without a marriage ceremony, one contracted through procuration - where the spouse is acquired contractually, such as in a mail-order bride situation - or in violation of the law, is considered to have never taken place at all.
Relatively null marriages include those where one party did not consent or was unable to consent to the marriage, one spouse was underage, is mentally retarded, was intoxicated, was not present for the marriage, or was coerced into the marriage. Spouses in a relatively null marriage can have a valid marriage if the spouse who did not consent later does. Louisiana also recognizes voidable marriages, where one party may seek to have the marriage annulled if the consent of one or both parties of the marriage was not freely given. Situations of coercion, threat of force, or any situation where the marriage is based on fraud qualify for a voidable marriage.
Obtaining an annulment in Louisiana is much like obtaining a divorce. It may be possible to complete this process without paying for legal representation; however, proving fraud, for example, or drug addiction or any other basis for annulments of marriage can be difficult.
In Louisiana, to annul a marriage, one spouse files a Petition to Annul marriage in the district court of the parish where either spouse lives.
The filing spouse is the plaintiff; the other spouse is the defendant. The petition includes both parties names, the place and date of the marriage, and the legal grounds for annulment. The petition states claims for alimony, child support, or a division of the joint property. The petition must not only explain the reason for annulment, but also when the plaintiff first realized the marriage was illegitimate.
After filing, the plaintiff must serve the defendant the annulment papers. There are ways to complete service on the defendant even if he or she cannot be found or lives out of state.
A hearing is held before a judge who must decide if the plaintiff has proven the argument for annulment. If the judge agrees, he or she signs a judgment declaring the marriage null. The judgment states how much should be paid in alimony and child support, and how the spouses property is divided. Even if both spouses are actively pursuing an annulment of the marriage, both need to appear in court. Unlike divorces, there is no way to expedite this process.
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