Property Division in an Annulment
Because the legal effect of an annulment is to treat the marriage as though it never existed, the usual treatment of property is to return each spouse to the position they were in before the marriage. Since many annulments occur shortly after the marriage, property issues are often minimal.
However, an important aspect of property treatment for an annulment is that most states do not grant spousal support in the event of an annulment. They reason that because the marriage was invalidated, the spouses do not have a legal right to this type of support. Despite this rationale, some states like New York and New Jersey still allow some spouses who get an annulment to receive spousal support. In some cases, an annulment can affect the property rights of spouses.
Divorce generally involves spouses splitting up their assets 50/50, but an annulment can affect the division. It is often more difficult for a spouse to claim property that legally belonged to the other spouse. Because the marriage is voided at the beginning, there is not technically any marital property to be divided. The annulment might terminate any property rights that one spouse acquired in the other spouse’s property while they were married. The state may provide equitable arguments to more fairly distribute the property when the spouses are in disparate financial conditions.
In cases of longer marriages, the courts may apply typical divorce laws to divide the property between the spouses. However, state law varies on this topic, so it is important to learn about the laws in your state and consult with a family law attorney who is licensed in your state about your legal rights and obligations.
There may also be effects on real property. Some states recognize “tenancy by the entirety,” which is basically joint tenancy with the right of survivorship that is only available for married couples. When the annulment is entered, the property might become a tenancy in common, which provides each spouse with an undivided one-half interest in the property that they can sell or use to assert a partition action. If one of the spouses had the property titled in his or her name, this will likely become his or her separate property after the annulment order.
An annulment also cuts off a spouse’s right to inherit from the other spouse. For a spouse to make sure the former spouse receives property at the time of his or her death, the spouse would likely have to rewrite his or her will to specifically include the former spouse and the annulment.