In Georgia, an annulment is a judicial determination that the marriage in question is void or invalid from the date it occurred. O.C.G.A. § 19-4-1. In essence, an annulment invalidates a marriage such that, legally, it never existed. A marriage may only be annulled in Georgia under certain circumstances. Just as a divorce in Georgia must be based on one of the thirteen grounds of divorce in Georgia, an annulment must be based on one of the valid grounds for annulment in Georgia.
Similar to divorces in Georgia, annulments may only be granted by the Superior Courts of Georgia. In fact, annulment may be initiated just as divorces are, by filing a petition for an annulment and having the petition and a summons served on the other spouse. See Ga. Const. 1983, Art. VI, §IV, ¶ I. See our articles concerning jurisdiction and venue for divorce actions to learn more about the procedures for initiating an annulment action. Although the process for initiating an annulment action is similar to that of divorce actions, there is one major distinction between annulments and divorce actions in this regard. Unlike divorce, a court may enter an order granting the annulment without the necessity of conducting a hearing on the matter if the defendant in the action fails to answer or contest the annulment within 30 days of being served with the petition and summons. O.C.G.A. § 19-4-4. Thus, it is absolutely essential for a respondent in an annulment action to respond to a petition for annulment within the time allotted in order to avoid a potential default judgment, if he or she wishes to contest the action.
The consequence of an annulment is that the marriage, once annulled, is void as if it never existed. The parties, once the marriage is annulled, are returned back to their original status as unmarried or never married individuals. O.C.G.A. § 19-4-5. With this being the case, awards based on the marital relationship normally granted upon divorce, like alimony, are not available in conjunction with annulments. See York v. York, 2020 Ga. 50 (1947), Barnett v. Barnett, 191 Ga. 501 (1941) and Lovett v. Zeigler, 224 Ga. 144 (1968). Upon annulling a marriage, in order to place the parties back in the position they were in prior to the marital relationship, courts may partition or determine property rights or “otherwise do equity as between the parties.” McKinney v. McKinney, 242 Ga. 607 (1978).
There are six grounds that a couple or an individual may assert in order to obtain an annulment in Georgia. The grounds for annulment in Georgia are as follows…(continue reading).