Marriage Annulments in Minnesota
- by Eric C. Nelson, Attorney

This article discusses civil annulments of marriage in Minnesota. Religious annulments, such as those granted by the Catholic Church, are beyond the scope of this article.

Unlike a divorce, which terminates a marriage as of the date of entry of the divorce decree, an annulment is a judicial determination that the marriage never validly existed at all. Annulments in civil law are a rarity, because the legal grounds for granting them are quite narrow.

Before discussing annulments, it is important to distinguish between “voidable” marriages, which remain valid until an annulment decree is issued, and “void” marriages, which are never legally valid in the first place, and do not require an annulment decree to be deemed legally void. [1]

Void marriages are: [2]
  1. Marriages entered into before the prior marriage of a party is dissolved. [3]
  2. Marriages between persons too closely related by blood or adoption.
  3. Marriages between persons of the same sex.
Voidable marriages, for which a decree of annulment must be obtained, are in cases where: [4]
  1. A party lacked capacity to consent to the marriage at the time the marriage was solemnized, either because of mental incapacity or infirmity and the other party at the time the marriage was solemnized did not know of the incapacity; [5] or because of the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other incapacitating substances; or because consent of either was obtained by force or fraud and there was no subsequent voluntary cohabitation of the parties; [6]
  2. A party lacks the physical capacity to consummate the marriage by sexual intercourse and the other party at the time the marriage was solemnized did not know of the incapacity; [7]
  3. A party was under the age for marriage established by section 517.02 (generally age 18, or age 16 with parental consent). [8]

Footnotes:
  1. Minnesota Statute sections 518.01 and 518.02.
  2. Minnesota Statute section 517.03.
  3. This actually happens. I was once contacted by a person having issues with her husband’s ex-wife. After discussing the matter and checking her husband’s case records, it was clear that her marriage occurred prior to her husband’s divorce date from his ex-wife. I had to explain that she wasn’t legally married, and would need a do-over to become legally married. Boy was she surprised.
  4. Minnesota Statute section 518.02.
  5. However, if the parties continue to cohabit after sanity is restored, an annulment is not allowed, pursuant to Minnesota Statute section 518.04.
  6. An annulment petition on these grounds must be brought within 90 days after learning of the condition, pursuant to Minnesota Statute section 518.05(a).
  7. An annulment petition on this basis must be brought within 1 year after learning of the condition, pursuant to Minnesota Statute section 518.05(b).
  8. An annulment petition on this basis must be brought before the underaged party reaches the age of consent, pursuant to Minnesota Statute section 518.05(c).