Marriage annulment and divorce are very different things. An annulment declares a marriage null and void, as if it never happened. Divorce is the legal termination of a marriage. It acknowledges that you were legally married for a time, but now you are single again.
Since an annulled couple was, technically, never legally married, they are not entitled to the same protections of a divorce.
In Maryland, grounds for annulment include:
- The spouses are more closely related than first cousins.
- Either spouse was under 18 at the time of the marriage.
- One spouse had a living husband or wife at the time of the marriage.
- One spouse is mentally incapable of marriage, or they were at the time of the marriage.
- At least one spouse entered the marriage under duress (including abduction, fraud, undue influence, etc.).
Even longer marriages can be annulled, depending on the situation. This can leave questions about finances and paying alimony.
Some financial obligations can exist after an annulment, depending on the circumstances.
In this article, we take a broad overview of the ways Maryland courts can handle alimony, or spousal support, in an annulment.
Maryland’s Alimony Law and Marriage Annulments
Typically, you can expect some form of spousal support to exist when you divorce in Maryland. However, there are no specific rules regarding alimony in an annulment.
Courts tend to consider annulments on a case-by-case basis. The goal is to immediately separate the partners and leave them with little obligation to one another.
Generally, it is unlikely that an annulment will result in spousal support payments. However, the court will consider the same factors that it would in a divorce. It will look at the length of the marriage, each spouse’s ability to support themselves, and so on.
When is Alimony an Option During an Annulment in Maryland
Because an annulment effectively treats as if it never happened, the courts would award alimony only in special cases.
Potential examples include:
- One spouse has health issues that prevent them from working or supporting themselves.
- Someone was coerced into the marriage, trapped in it for years, and is just now getting their freedom.
- There is clear evidence that the dependent spouse needs financial support due to the marriage. This could include situations where one spouse gave up their career or education to support the other spouse.
Even if an annulment includes alimony, it will last for a limited amount of time. The idea is to return the dependent spouse to the financial state they had before the marriage.
Alternatives to Alimony in a Maryland Annulment
- The judge could require the transfer of assets such as property or investment accounts.
- The judge may order a lump sum payment or require one spouse to purchase an annuity, providing ongoing support.
Alongside the need for support, a judge can consider whether one of the spouses was fooled, coerced, or abused. They can use methods like these as a form of civil compensation, rather than a direct alimony payment.
Factors That Determine the Amount of Alimony Paid During a Maryland
- The income of each spouse
- The duration of the marriage
- The financial needs of each spouse
- The age and health of each partner
- Each spouse’s ability to support themselves
- The potential earning capacity of each partner
- The lifestyle enjoyed during the marriage each spouse’s ability to maintain that lifestyle
Options For Those Seeking to Modify an Alimony Agreement in Maryland
- Negotiate a new agreement with your ex-spouse outside of court. This option can be quicker and more cost-effective, but both parties must agree to the changes.
- File a petition with the court to modify the agreement. This option can be more time-consuming and expensive, but it may be necessary when the former spouses cannot agree. The court will consider various factors such as changes in income, disability, or the need for additional education or training.
If you need an annulment, but you are concerned about how ending your marriage will affect your finances, Law Office of Nicholas T. Exarhakis is here to help. We may be able to review your case and offer guidance. It may be better for you to seek a legal divorce, depending on your circumstances. Trust us to assist you and schedule a free consultation by calling (410) 593-0040 or contacting us online.