Seeking To End Your Brief Military Marriage? Is Divorce Or Annulment The Best Option?

If you've come to the conclusion that your recent marriage to an enlisted officer won't (or shouldn't) stand the test of time, you may be wondering how to proceed -- especially if your marriage coincided with an intrastate (or even international) move. Is having your new marriage annulled a viable option, or will you need to proceed to divorce court? Where should you file for divorce if you've not yet established residency in your new location? Are you entitled to a share of your soon-to-be-ex spouse's military pension or other earnings? Read on to learn more about your rights and options when seeking to end a short military marriage.

When is an annulment an option for military marriages?

While you may associate the annulment process only with short-lived marriages, a marriage can be annulled at any point. Unlike divorce, which is the legal dissolution of a valid marriage, an annulment is a legal declaration that the marriage was never valid. This can happen if there was a problem with obtaining the marriage license, if the marriage was solemnized in violation of state laws (for example, marrying someone who is under the age of legal consent or too closely related by blood), or if the marriage was obtained by fraud. A fraudulent marriage can include anything from failure to disclose one's sexuality to lying about one's military status.

The laws governing an annulment are generally the laws of the state in which you married. For example, if you married at age 16 in a state where the minimum age for marriage without parental consent is 17, and proceeded to move to a state that permits 16-year-olds to get married, your marriage could still be annulled as it was not legal in the state in which you applied for a marriage license. 

Because annulment is a legal statement that a marriage never existed, having your marriage annulled can mean you're ineligible for benefits like alimony or a share of your ex-spouse's military pension -- even if you were "married" for decades. If you became pregnant during a marriage that was later annulled, you'll still be able to receive child support, but as an unwed parent, not an ex-spouse. As a result, unless you can definitively prove that your marriage was never valid and you wish to make no claim on your spouse's assets (or future assets), you may want to pursue divorce instead. 

What should you know before you proceed to divorce? 

Although military service is handled by the federal government, the military divorce process (like annulment) largely rests on the laws of the state in which you file. Each state's laws can vary widely, particularly when it comes to dividing your spouse's military pension or awarding alimony. While someone who divorces in a state that freely permits alimony (or spousal support) can receive a generous payment from their ex-spouse for a period of years, the same person filing in a state where alimony is unavailable could receive a much less generous marital settlement.

If you and your spouse have already separated residences, or if you've never taken the steps needed to become a legal resident of your most recent state, it could be worth investigating the divorce laws of the state in which you plan to eventually settle to see if they could be more favorable than the laws of the state in which you previously lived. If you make your residence in this state before filing for divorce, you may be able to argue that the laws of this state should apply to your divorce, rather than the laws of the state (or states) in which you lived. 

For more information about going through a divorce from someone in the military, contact an attorney like Karen Robins Carnegie PLC.