Annulments in Colorado (What, How, and When)
- What is an annulment? In short, an annulment is a legal order that nullifies and voids a marriage completely – as if it never existed.
- How do I get an annulment? To get an annulment in Colorado you will need to file a pleading with a district court called a petition for invalidity and prove that you are entitled to one by showing one or more of the various grounds for annulment.
- How long does it take to get an annulment? It depends if it is contested. If one party contests the annulment and tries to convert it to a petition for divorce then the process may take many months. If the annulment is not contested, it could be as short as just a few months.
- What does an annulment cost? It depends, once again, on whether the annulment is contested. A contested annulment could be just as expensive and time-consuming as a divorce. However, if the annulment is not contested and the parties clearly have grounds for an annulment, the cost may be minimal.
An annulment and a divorce both terminate a marriage but in slightly different ways. An annulment, referred to as a “declaration of invalidity” under Colorado law, essentially treats a marriage as if it never existed whereas a divorce treats that marriage as having validly existing but nonetheless dissolved. Because annulments treat the marriage as having never existed, to obtain an annulment the party asking for one must prove that one of the many grounds for annulment exists. In contrast, a divorce can be sought at any time for any reason as Colorado is a “no-fault” divorce state.
The Grounds for Annulment in Colorado
A party lacked capacity to consent to the marriage at the time the marriage was solemnized, either because of mental incapacity or infirmity or because of the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other incapacitating substances. C.R.S. 14-10-111(1)(a).
A party lacked the physical capacity to consummate the marriage by sexual intercourse, and the other party did not at the time the marriage was solemnized know of the incapacity. C.R.S. 14-10-111(1)(b).
A party was under the age as provided by law and did not have the consent of his parents or guardian or judicial approval as provided by law. C.R.S. 14-10-111(1)(c).
One party entered into the marriage in reliance upon a fraudulent act or representation of the other party, which fraudulent act or representation goes to the essence of the marriage. C.R.S. 14-10-111(1)(d).
One or both parties entered into the marriage under duress exercised by the other party or a third party, whether or not such other party knew of such exercise of duress. C.R.S. 14-10-111(1)(e).
One or both parties entered into the marriage as a jest or dare. C.R.S. 14-10-111(1)(f).
The marriage is prohibited by law. C.R.S. 14-10-111(1)(g)(I)-(IV).
Deadlines For Annulling a Marriage (How Long After Marriage can you get an Annulment?)
Annulments are typically sought immediately (or almost immediately) after the marriage absent unique circumstances. This is because it is difficult to comprehend a scenario where a five or ten-year marriage ought to be treated as if it never existed. Moreover, many of the grounds for annulment would ordinarily be discovered immediately or almost immediately after the marriage. However, there are some unique circumstances where an annulment may be sought some time after the marriage. The following include the deadlines to seek an annulment based on the various grounds for annulment identified above. Different grounds have different timelines.
Capacity, Fraud, Consent, Duress, Jest, Dare
The aggrieved spouse can bring a claim for annulment on the basis of capacity, fraud, duress, jest, or dare within 6 months of obtaining knowledge of the ground for annulment. C.R.S. 14-10-111(2)(a).
Lack of Capacity to Consummate
The aggrieved spouse has one year to request an annulment starting on the date the spouse obtained knowledge of the other spouse’s inability to consummate the marriage. C.R.S. 14-10-111(2)(b).
Age of Consent
The aggrieved spouse or his or her guardian or parent may petition for annulment within two years from the date the marriage was entered into. C.R.S., 14-10-111(2)(c).
The Marriage is Void
If the marriage is void because it is a bigamous, polygamous, incestuous, or otherwise void marriage, an aggrieved spouse may bring a petition for annulment at any time “prior to the death of either party or prior to the final settlement of the estate of either party and the discharge of the personal representative, executor, or administrator of the estate or prior to six months after an estate is closed.” C.R.S. 14-10-111(3).