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Oregon Annulment and Prohibited Marriage Laws

Annulment vs. Divorce

While annulment and divorce both accomplish the same thing in the end, they take different routes to get there. While divorce ends a marriage, with all the complex legal agreements that come with separating one household into two, an annulment states that the marriage was never valid, to begin with. 

Void Marriages

Void marriages are marriages that are prohibited by law, and cannot be ratified or made valid. In Oregon, void marriages include:

  • Marriage to a first cousin or closer relative
  • Bigamy
  • Polygamy 

Voidable Marriages

Avoidable marriage is when a party was incapable of entering into or consenting to marriage.  Voidable marriages are valid and legal but can be declared void under certain circumstances, ​such as cohabitation after the condition is discovered or cured. 

Grounds for Voidable Marriages in Oregon

  • One or both spouses under age 18
  • Spouse unable to consent to marriage due to mental incapacity or incompetence, or
  • Marriage consent obtained by force or fraud.

What Happens When an Underage Spouse Reaches 18?

While the fact that one or both spouses were underage at the time of marriage constitutes grounds for an annulment, if the spouses continue to freely live together after both have reached the age of consent, a claim for annulment will be waived.

Can Fraud Be Waived?

Although fraud is grounds for an annulment, fraud can be waived under certain circumstances. In a situation where fraud would be sufficient for an annulment, if the innocent spouse discovers the fraud and does not immediately separate and live apart from the offending spouse, the fraud may be considered to have been waived, and that the innocent spouse ratified the marriage, preventing an annulment on fraud grounds.

Consequences of Annulment

If a marriage is annulled, both parties lose all rights enjoyed as a married couple but are also free to marry again without going through the divorce process. Legal rights that can be lost as a result of annulment include:

  • Marital property rights: No permission is needed to sell or lease any property that is owned solely by one former partner.
  • Succession rights: Neither party is legally entitled to a share in their former partner’s estate if he or she dies.
  • Spousal support, maintenance, or alimony: Courts will not award any financial support to either party. However, child support may be awarded.
  • Father’s guardian rights to a child: Fathers are only given guardian rights if they can prove a reasonable belief that the marriage ceremony was valid. Under Oregon law, unmarried fathers have no right to be in their child’s or children’s lives without taking legal action, although both parents may formalize paternity by naming the father as such on the child’s birth certificate, or signing an acknowledgment of paternity. 

Procedure to File for Annulment

Just like in the case of divorce, to file for an annulment in Oregon the marriage must have happened there or at least one spouse must live in Oregon for at least six months before filing.

The petitioner must establish grounds for an annulment. The county clerk provides the appropriate annulment papers, and there are two separate annulment packets, depending on whether there are any minor children involved. The forms must be completed in duplicate, with one copy going to the spouse, and the other staying with the petitioner. 

All documents, except the summons, are filed with the county clerk. The petitioner must sign up for a parenting class if there are minor children.

Someone other than the petitioner must serve the annulment paperwork to the spouse, such as the sheriff, professional process server, or a friend who is at least 18. A missing spouse may be served by an alternative means of service, such as service by publication. Failing to issue a response results in a default judgment in favor of the petitioner. 

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