If you have recently, or not so recently, gotten married and now are having second thoughts you are not alone. It happens with far too great of frequency that spouses across Texas believe that their marriage was built on a foundation of lies and deceit. For various reasons people are motivated to tell their significant others outright falsehoods or half-truths at best in order to induce them into marriage. In the event that you can count yourself among those unfortunate people in this situation then today’s blog from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC is for you.
Do you qualify for an annulment?
The first place we need to look in determining whether or not you can get an annulment based on fraud is to determine whether or not you qualify for an annulment at all. The Texas Family Code tells us that a judge can grant an annulment of your marriage if your spouse induced you in to the marriage based on fraud, duress or force and if you have not voluntarily cohabitated with that person since you learned of the fraud/duress or were able to able escape from the forceful actions that were keeping you in the marital residence.
What this tells us is that if you were induced via fraud to marry your spouse and you then stopped living with that person as soon as you learned of the fraud you are on track to getting the annulment that you are seeking.
What is fraud in terms of a Texas annulment?
When this issue has reached the high courts in Texas a consistent definition has been applied: Fraudulent inducement is established by proving that a false material representation was made that 1) was known to be false when it was made, 2) was intended to be acted upon, 3) was relied upon and 4) caused injury. Desta v. Anyaoha, 371 S.W.3d 596, 600 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2012, no pet.)
What this means is that if your spouse had previously told you something prior to your getting married that is false and it can be shown that the statement was made for you to rely upon it then you would need to follow that up by showing that the statement was in fact relied upon. A marriage that you would have otherwise not entered into could be argued as an injury that you suffered.
What sort of examples are out there in the legal world off fraudulently induced marriages?
I am aware of one annulment that was granted in our state based on the following circumstances. In this situation two people had been dating, had a child and then got married. This is not exactly the traditional timeline of events as far as that is concerned but in today’s day and age it has become much more the norm.
Back to our story- the husband was not a United States citizen but he loved his significant other a great deal and told her that he wanted to marry her. This was told to her after the child had been born, and I think it is reasonable to expect a young mother who heard this to believe what the man was telling her.
Fast forward past the marriage ceremony and we see that the husband told his wife that he, in fact, did not love her and had actually been unfaithful to her throughout their courtship. Once the wife learned this she moved out of the home that she shared with her husband and daughter- taking her daughter with her.
After the wife filed a petition for annulment, a court heard the testimony of both spouses and rendered a decision that the husband had in fact made false statements to the wife prior to their marriage regarding his love for her and desire to be married. The statements, the court further reasoned, were made with the intent for her to rely upon them in order to procure a willingness to marry him. Given the false statements, the court concluded that the wife would not have married the man. The benefit to the husband, namely citizenship, was conferred upon him as a result of the marriage. An annulment was granted.
How can you proceed in your own annulment case?
In meeting with prospective clients of the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC I have had the opportunity to meet with people who are near certain that their situation qualifies for an annulment. Their basis for this confidence is that they came to know facts about their spouse only after the marriage that, had they been disclosed prior to marriage, would have caused him or her to not proceed with the wedding. In a recent consultation, a young wife told me that she learned through a Google search that her husband had a long criminal history. She had known nothing of this situation prior to the marriage occurring and had only been dating a few months prior to get married.
Taking this situation into consideration, we let this person know that unless her husband specifically told her that he did not have a criminal history after he asked her then she likely would not have grounds for an annulment. The reason being is that there is no fraud present- a criminal history does not need to be disclosed to a person that you are dating or engaged to. Now, if the woman we met with had specifically asked about that subject and her boyfriend denied the criminal history this would be a different story. As it stands in the example that I just gave you, however, the wife will have a difficult time in winning the annulment that she is seeking.
Cohabitation after the fact ruins your chances at an annulment
If you were to go back and review all the ways that you can get an annulment of your marriage in Texas you would learn that many of them revolve around not going back into the marital house to live once you find you about the fraud/deception/issue that could lead to an annulment being granted by the court. Most people, unfortunately, are unaware of the specific circumstance that could win him or her the annulment and then go back to live in the home thinking nothing of it.
The best advice that I can provide you with in this regard is if your spouse told you about something that could eventually lead to your getting an annulment (a lie that you found out later to be false, for example) you should immediately move out of the home. The difficulty of doing this is not lost on me. Finding a place to live on a moment’s notice is tough if you don’t have a support system in your area.
The best advice that I can provide you is probably along the same lines that your mother or father would: do your due diligence when it comes to finding a potential spouse. This means that you should date the person for a suitable length of time to figure out if the person can be trusted. Ask questions of that person and if their answers don’t add up then don’t assume it’s a problem with how you received the answer. You have common sense that should not be ignored. The worst thing you can do to yourself is to think that the issue will solve itself later or is not worth pursuing prior to getting married. The best time to do something about it is before you get married and before you have to worry about things like annulments.
Questions about family law in Texas? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC
The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC take a great deal of pride in the work that we do on behalf of clients across southeast Texas. Our duty is to put your interests ahead of our own and that is something we are serious about. For a free of charge consultation where your questions can be answered in a comfortable and pressure free environment please contact one of our licensed family law attorneys today.