Weddings are big business in Las Vegas. Many of them are planned in advance. But others occur on the spur of the moment — and one or both new spouses wake up the next morning regretting the decision. If that happens, legal options are available to the spouses to “cancel” the marriage. Annulment is one possibility, but getting a Las Vegas marriage annulled involves more than a simple legal process.
Nevada statutes govern the process of getting a Las Vegas marriage annulled in the state. The laws are very specific about the reasons that a court can grant an annulment. If a person files a request with the court, the burden is on the filing party to establish the grounds for the annulment.
The annulment procedure is available for two different types of marriages, those that are void and those that are voidable. A void marriage is one that is invalid based on the facts. A voidable marriage is one that can be declared as invalid by the court, based on evidence provided to the court.
In contrast, a divorce (which is an alternative to annulment for Las Vegas marriages) does not invalidate a marriage. A divorce ends a legally valid marriage, unlike an annulment, which makes a marriage invalid. If a court grants an annulment, the marriage never existed in the eyes of the law. That is not the case when spouses get a divorce.
A Nevada marriage is void in only two specific situations:
While a marriage that meets either of these requirements is void under the law, securing an annulment from the court provides documentary evidence of the invalidity. Importantly, if the annulment request is based on the fact that one of the parties is legally married to another person, the law specifically provides that the annulment does not prevent criminal prosecution for bigamy.
Voidable marriages for purposes of an annulment fall into a four (4) different categories. To secure an annulment for a voidable marriage, the filing party must demonstrate to the court that the circumstances meet the statutory requirements. In Nevada, the permissible reasons for requesting annulment of a voidable marriage are:
To secure an annulment on any of the grounds relating to voidable marriages, the requesting party must provide evidence proving that the circumstances meet the statutory requirements. The standards are strict. Nevada courts do not lightly grant annulments in these situations.
If the circumstances of a marriage fall in the “spur of the moment” category, and one or both spouses regret the decision, requesting annulment of the marriage may be an option. The most likely grounds would be a lack of understanding that rendered a party incapable of consent or intentional deceit amounting to fraud. Either situation is challenging to prove in court, as the evidentiary standards are high.
Another possibility is filing a petition requesting either divorce or annulment, which is permitted in Nevada. If the court grants annulment, the judge does not rule on the divorce petition. However, filing for a divorce in Nevada requires that one party can establish residence in the state for at least 6 weeks preceding filing of the divorce petition.
For annulment of a marriage that occurred in Nevada (which, of course, Las Vegas marriages do), neither party is required to be a resident of the state. For annulment of an out-of-state marriage in Nevada, at least one spouse must be a state resident for at least six (6) weeks before filing the request.
When a court considers a request for annulment, the judge may also determine community property rights, spousal support rights, and issues relating to children. Generally, the authority of the court is the same as in a divorce case.
Typically, the likelihood of receiving a Nevada annulment is greater if both spouses agree to the request. Filing the request soon after the marriage may also improve your chances of having the court grant the request.
While technically it may be possible to file an annulment request without assistance from legal counsel, that approach can create significant problems and loss of important rights. Proving the grounds for annulment is challenging in any circumstances.
An experienced family law attorney knows what needs to be demonstrated to the judge and also understands the court rules for introducing evidence in court. For those reasons, having skillful legal counsel represent you in the proceeding gives you a substantial advantage. In addition, representation by an attorney is essential to protect your rights concerning community property and alimony or support rights, which the court may also determine in an annulment proceeding.
If you got married in Las Vegas and want to explore asking a Nevada court for an annulment or divorce, Las Vegas family law attorney Joseph Gersten is here to help. Attorney Gersten always uses his extensive experience in domestic matters and litigation to protect his clients’ interests and pursue efficient, cost-effective resolution of an issue.
At The Gersten Law Firm, we work with clients on a broad range of issues in Las Vegas, Henderson, and elsewhere in Clark County. Your initial consultation is always free-of-charge at The Gersten Law Firm. Call 702.857.8777 or complete our online form to schedule an appointment.