First of all, my condolences. But don't beat yourself up; we all make mistakes. Just figure out how to fix it. You can file a petition for divorce, but the much more expedient way to resolve this awkward situation is to simply ask for an annulment. First, you must decide which state to file in. Most states require that you be a resident of that state--having lived there for, say, six weeks, 90 days, six months or a year--or be in the military and have that state is listed as your home state of record. The non-filing spouse does not have to live in the same state (more often than not, the parties already have physically separated at this point). A few states also allow you to file there if that is where you got married, even if you (now) live elsewhere. The state of Nevada immediately comes to mind, renowned for its quickie marriages and just as quick divorces and annulments. Since there is no residency waiting period you are looking at weeks instead of months to complete the process.
How can I make things go even faster?
If both you and your spouse are in agreement that you both made a mistake by getting married at this time, getting an annulment (or even a divorce) will be much quicker than if just one of you files the paperwork to start the court case. Also, a one-party petition unavoidably makes the process more adversarial in nature (one of you now is "against" the other) and extends the timeline by weeks and sometimes months, depending on how confrontational or uncooperative you and/or your spouse become during the proceeding. So consider filing a joint petition for annulment or divorce to speed things up considerably.
Reasons an annulment may be granted: Ways a marriage is void from the start
Even though most states are now "no-fault" when it comes to divorce--in other words, one party no longer has to prove that the other party did something "bad" such as adultery to cause the marriage to unravel--annulments do require proving some kind of legally acceptable reason that a marriage should be considered "null and void," or as if it never existed at all. Sometimes this is accomplished by operation of law, which means you don't even have to file a petition for annulment to have the marriage considered legally invalid. In any state in the country, either of the two following conditions is enough to automatically annul a marriage: (1) incest [that is, the two of you are you are related by blood, which includes parents & children, grandparents & grandchildren, half/ full brothers & sisters, uncles & nieces, aunts & nephews, and first cousins]; or (2) the other party was already married to someone else at the time of the wedding (bigamy/polygamy/polyandry).
Other reasons an annulment may be granted: Ways a marriage can be voidable
Other factors exist that, while not necessarily a sure bet for getting an annulment, frequently are used successfully to obtain one. These include impaired capacity or incapacity to consent and/or mistake of fact. Common scenarios include where one or both of the spouses were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the wedding such that an argument can be made that they lacked the ability to consent to the marriage; or where a spouse learns during the marriage that at the time of the wedding the other party was: (a) mentally retarded or otherwise deficient; (b) legally insane; or (c) under the age of 18. These are not magic bullets, however; for example, the age-of-majority issue can be overcome by showing that there was parental consent to the marriage, the parties willingly cohabited together after both were of age or you filed for an annulment after he/she turned 19. Likewise, a marriage to an "insane" person is valid if it occurs during a "lucid interval." (No joking!)
Other reasons an annulment may be granted: Additional ways a marriage can be voidable
Other ways you may be able to convince a judge to annul your marriage include: (1) fraud/duress--that is, where the other spouse misled you about some important fact about themselves or their background, or you were forced into the marriage by actual threats of death or serious bodily harm to you or another; (2) impotency/failure to consummate the marriage/loss of consortium--as strange as it sounds, this one is a very real method of annulment, which perhaps stems from the notion that one of the goals or purposes of marriage is procreation or, at the very least, one should be able to expect and come to rely on the love, affection, sexual relations and general support of their spouse; or (3) gender--barring current same-sex marriage-license issuers Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington, D.C., same-sex marriages generally are not recognized in the United States, but virtually all states will gladly annul or dissolve your same-sex marriage.
So what should I do?
Your best bet is to consult with an experienced family-law attorney, particularly one who has handled annulments. They can competently advise you on what to file (petition for divorce or petition for annulment), where to file (state and county), how to file (individual or joint) and what infirmities could be argued exist that might make your marriage void or voidable (a nullity). Best of luck!
This legal guide should not be construed as formal legal advice or the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.
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