Montana Annulment…The Myth, The LegendMarybeth Sampsel
It may be hard to believe, but the Hollywood television and film industry is not the most reliable source for Montana legal information. Still, if I had a dollar for every client that wondered if they can get an annulment like that guy in “The Hangover,” or pretend the marriage never existed like the cast of “The Young & The Restless,” I wouldn’t need to work. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), Montana divorce laws were not created by screenwriters.
Most everything you hear about annulment of marriage in Montana is a myth and the reason for that is the Montana Legislature did away with traditional annulment laws years ago. Instead, some Montana marriages may be terminated by a “declaration of invalidity,” which essentially means the marriage is not valid and so does not exist. Even with a declaration of invalidity as an option, Montana divorce laws favor the dissolution process as a means to dissolve a marriage. For that reason, declarations of invalidity can be hard to come by and are only granted in certain situations. For example, a marriage would likely be invalid if a party was under 16 years of age at the time of the marriage, if a party lacked the mental capacity to consent, or if a party was forced into the marriage.
One of the most popular annulment myths is that if you have been married less than a year, there is an annulment waiting with your name on it. This myth could not be further from the truth, as the duration of the marriage has nothing to do with a declaration of invalidity. However, there are certain situations in which a declaration of invalidity must be sought within a certain time frame. For example, if a person seeks a declaration of invalidity due to the lack of capacity to consent due to mental incapacity or infirmity, they must seek the declaration within one year after they obtained knowledge of the condition.
So, the next time you are considering jumping into marriage Hollywood-style, remember that it cannot always be undone in the same fashion.