Divorces and annulments both legally end marriages and both involve court procedures in New Mexico—but there are some important differences between the processes and outcomes.
Most fundamentally, an annulment treats a marriage as if it never happened while a divorce is the official means of ending a legally recognized marriage.
be granted an annulment, you must convince the court that the marriage was never legal or valid and should never have happened. This can often be challenging without legal assistance.
Here’s what else you need to know about annulment…
Civil annulment vs religious annulment
Annulling a marriage in New Mexico means that no valid marriage ever existed and it is expunged from the records.
A “civil annulment” from a court is different from a “religious annulment”, which can only be granted by a church or clergy.
The latter has no legal effect on the marital status of the couple in New Mexico but some couples prefer to receive a religious annulment because of their religious beliefs.
What are the grounds for an annulment in New Mexico?
Like with divorce, to obtain an annulment you must be able to show legal grounds (reasons) why the court should grant such a request.
For a marriage to be annulled, only the following limited grounds are valid in New Mexico:
- One spouse was under age 16 at the time of marriage.
- One spouse was under age 18 at the time of marriage and did not have consent to marry from a parent or guardian.
- The marriage was illegal because the spouses are too closely related: marriages between grandparents and grandchildren, siblings (including half-siblings), and uncles or aunts with nieces or nephews are prohibited in New Mexico.
- Bigamy (one spouse was married to someone else at the time of the marriage).
The above reasons account for most annulments. However, according to case law, New Mexico judges can also grant annulments because one spouse had a significant mental illness (lack of mental capacity), the marriage was agreed to under duress/coercion or the spouses were unable to consummate the marriage.
In the case of no consent from a parent or guardian, an annulment may be granted if the spouse is under 18 and the annulment is requested by a parent or guardian or a district attorney. The spouse over age 18 may not request an annulment.
If two minors marry and live together until they’re 18, the marriage can no longer be annulled in New Mexico.
Process for obtaining an annulment in New Mexico
To obtain an annulment in New Mexico, one spouse must be a resident of New Mexico for at least six months. This is the same residency requirement as for a divorce.
Provided you meet this requirement, the first step is to file a petition for annulment in the district court in the county where you or your spouse live. The person who files the petition is known as the plaintiff while the spouse is the defendant.
The petition document must be filled out and should include all relevant personal information about you, as well as your spouse, children, marriage, and grounds for an annulment.
Once filed, the annulment petition must be “served” to your spouse, i.e., another adult must hand-deliver it to your spouse. The server of the petition must complete an Affidavit of Service, which must then be filed with the court.
If both spouses agree that the marriage should be annulled and there are legal grounds to do so, the process is generally quite straightforward. A court hearing will be scheduled at which a judge will consider the evidence supporting the request for an annulment.
After listening to the evidence, the judge will rule on whether or not the annulment can be granted. If so, a signed annulment order will be produced.
Can annulment be contested?
Annulment proceedings are frequently contested by the other party, who believes the marriage should stand.
The plaintiff (party seeking annulment) must show that at least one of the legal grounds for annulment applies to their marriage to have a chance of it being granted.
How long do annulments take?
An annulment is a legal process so, although it is generally quicker than a divorce, it still takes some time.
Once a hearing date has been set by the court, a decision should be relatively quick but scheduling a hearing depends on how busy the local court is at the time.
What happens after an annulment?
If an annulment is granted, it is like your marriage never existed. It is effectively voided and you can legally say that you were never married if ever asked the question.
In New Mexico, a married couple is automatically presumed to be the parents of any children from the marriage unless proven otherwise. The same applies to annulled marriages. So, even if the marriage is annulled, the children are considered “legitimate” and the father is presumed to be the ex-husband of the mother.
Another effect of an annulment in a marriage with children is that a judge will need to decide about child custody and child support if the parents are unable to decide—much like with a divorce. The same applies to marital property and debt distribution: either a separation agreement can be drafted or a judge can decide.
Whether you’re seeking an annulment or a divorce, an experienced divorce lawyer from Legal Solutions of New Mexico can advise you of your legal rights, responsibilities, and options and provide the legal support you need. Start by booking a consultation or call us at 505-445-4444.