What are the grounds to file for an annulment in Delaware?
You can file for an annulment if you can prove one of the following grounds:
- Either spouse was unable to consent to the marriage when the ceremony was performed because of:
- mental illness
- incapacity or
- the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other similar substances;
- Either spouse entered into the marriage because s/he relied on a fraudulent act or representation of the other spouse, and the fraudulent act or representation goes to the essence (core) of the marriage; (For example, if your spouse lied and said s/he was heterosexual but later you find out that s/he knew s/he was gay when you got married);
- Either spouse (or both) got married because of duress (force/threats) by the spouse or by another person;
- Either spouse (or both) got married as a joke or a dare;
- Either spouse was physically unable to consummate the marriage (have sexual intercourse) and the other spouse did not know of the lack of physical ability at the time the marriage ceremony was performed.
- Either party was under 18 at the time of the marriage and the marriage was not confirmed by such underage party after reaching legal age. Note: Only the spouse who was underage (or his/her parent or guardian) can file for an annulment no later than 1 year after the date of the marriage.
- The marriage is prohibited by law and therefore void – here are some examples of void marriages:
- your spouse is already legally married to someone else (bigamy);
- you married your sibling (including half-sibling), uncle, aunt, niece, nephew, or first cousin;
- if either spouse is on probation or parole and did not file with the marriage-license clerk a written consent to the marriage from the appropriate person in the court or institution that granted the probation or parole.1
Note: There are certain time limits to file for an annulment based on the ground that you are alleging and in some situations, only one spouse can file. The rules are:
- To file under the grounds for annulment listed in numbers 1 – 4, only the aggrieved (wounded) spouse can file the annulment. It must be filed within 90 days after s/he becomes aware of the described condition (i.e., incapacity, fraud, threats, or joke or dare).
- To file under the grounds for annulment listed in number 5, either spouse can file for an annulment no later than 1 year after s/he becomes aware of the lack of ability.
- To file under the grounds for annulment listed in number 7, either spouse can file at any time before the death of either spouse. (It can even be filed after the death of a party within certain time limits.)1
In an annulment proceeding, property can still be divided up, just like in a divorce. Also, children born in the marriage are still considered to be “legitimate.”2
1 13 Del.C. § 1506(a) & (b); see also 13 Del.C. § 101(a) & (b)
2 13 Del.C. § 1506(c) & (d)