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Annulments in Maine
An annulment of marriage is not the same as a divorce. In a divorce, one or both spouses petition the probate and family court to end a valid marriage; in an annulment, one or both of the parties must prove that their marriage was never valid or that the marriage should be voided because it is not legal. In Maine, a voidable marriage is binding and legal if the parties remain married.
Maine courts rarely grant annulments unless the petitioner clearly demonstrates that the marriage is fraudulent or invalid. If the petition for an annulment is successful, the court erases the marriage by treating the union as nonexistent. With a void marriage, the parties do not need to petition the state court, because - by definition of marriage law - they were never legally married.
The Maine Revised Statutes, Title 19-A, Chapter 23, describes Maine annulment law. Maine law permits either party to file an action for an annulment of marriage; moreover, it also allows one of the parties to institute an action for affirming the marriage.
An annulment of marriage is a formal means of terminating a union. Grounds for annulments of marriage vary, but typically involve one spouse’s lack of capacity for marriage or some sort of fraud at the time of the marriage. Annulments are difficult to prove and have adjudicated.
Maine recognizes the following grounds for annulment:
Some grounds for annulment have additional rules:
Marriages where one spouse defrauded the other to get married are very difficult to annul. The plaintiff needs overwhelming evidence of a major fraud. Marriages annulled for impotence are also very rare.
When an annulment is granted, it means the spouses were never legally married. Both spouses can say that they never had a legal marriage.
In Maine, the partners may ask the court to divide their marital property when their marriage is annulled.
A marriage can still be annulled if children were born during the marriage. In Maine, unless one spouse can prove that he or she is not the child’s parent, the children of an annulled marriage are considered legitimate, meaning both parents have a continuing duty to financially support their children.
The filing spouse is the plaintiff; the other spouse is the defendant. The complaint for annulment is filed in the district court for the county where the defendant lives, or in the county where the plaintiff has lived for at least 60 days. The complaint identifies the spouse who has lived in the county where the action is being filed, and the amount of time they have resided there. The complaint also states the date of the marriage, and identifies any children born of the marriage as well as the grounds for the annulment.
After filing in the district court, the plaintiff serves the defendant the annulment papers. Although a little more difficult, it is possible to serve a party even if he or she cannot be found or lives out of state.
At a hearing, the judge decides if the plaintiff has proven that the marriage should be annulled. If so, the judge will sign an order granting an annulment. The judge may also grant the annulment simply if the defendant agrees with it.
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