Grounds for Annulment: Incapacity Under the Influence

Annulment is a legal proceeding initiated to terminate an invalid marriage. Annulment differs from divorce in that it is retroactive and leaves the parties to the annulment in the same position as if the marriage never happened. Annulments are typically granted when the marriage was never legal to begin with. Statistically, annulments are very rare compared to divorce because the grounds for annulment are very narrow and because of the availability of no-fault divorce.

Grounds for annulment vary state by state, but typically include fraud, bigamy, physical incapacity, impotency, nonage, force or duress, mental incapacity, and consanguinity.

Courts have considered a marriage to be a nullity and able to be annulled when it was established that one of the parties was so incapacitated due to drug or alcohol intoxication during the marriage ceremony as to not know what he or she was doing at the time. The degree of incapacity required to invalidate marriage varies from state to state, but generally requires a level of intoxication that would prevent the spouse from assenting to the marriage.

Annulment is a complicated action to invalidate a marriage and return the parties to their pre-marital status. It is rarely sought because the grounds are so narrow and generally must be based on an issue existing at the time of the marriage that would have prevented a valid marriage. Annulments are rare compared to divorces, partly because of the wide availability of no-fault divorce. In certain circumstances, the intoxication of a spouse at the time of the marriage can be the basis on which to seek an annulment.