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Can fraud be the basis for your getting an annulment?

If you have recently, or not so newly, gotten married and now are having second thoughts, you are not alone. It happens with far too great frequency that spouses across Texas believe that their marriage was built on lies and deceit. For various reasons, people are motivated to tell their significant others outright falsehoods or half-truths to induce them into marriage. If 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 a dissolution of your marriage if your spouse induced you into the marriage based on fraud, coercion, 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.

This tells us 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 scam, you are on track to getting the annulment 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 an injury. Desta v. Anyaoha, 371 S.W.3d 596, 600 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2012, no pet.)

This means that if your spouse had previously told you something before you got married, that is false. 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 information was relied upon. A marriage you would have otherwise not entered into could be argued as an injury you suffered.

What sort of examples are there in the legal world of fraudulently induced marriages?

I am aware of one annulment granted in our state based on the following circumstances. Two people had been dating, had a child, and then married in this situation. 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 said 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 did not love her and had 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. It rendered a decision that the husband had made false statements to the wife before their marriage regarding his love for her and desire to be married. The words, the court further reasoned, were made with the intent for her to rely upon them to procure a willingness to marry him. The court concluded that the wife would not have married the man given the false statements. The benefit to the husband, namely citizenship, was conferred upon him due to the marriage. An annulment was granted.

How can you proceed in your 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 before marriage, would have caused them to not proceed with the wedding. In a recent consultation, a young wife told me that she learned that her husband had a lengthy criminal history through a Google search. She had known nothing of this situation before the marriage occurred and had only been dating a few months before getting married.

Considering this situation, we let this person know that unless her husband specifically told her that he did not have a criminal history after he asked her, she likely would not have grounds for an annulment. The reason being is that there is no fraud present- a criminal record does not need to be disclosed to a person that you are dating or engaged to. 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, the wife will have difficulty winning the annulment 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 them the repeal and then go back to live in the home thinking nothing of it.

The best advice that I can provide you within 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 at 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 as your mother or father: do your due diligence when finding a potential spouse. This means that you should date the person for a suitable time to determine whether 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 response. You have common sense that should not be ignored. The worst thing you can do to yourself thinks that the issue will solve itself later or is not worth pursuing before 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 our work on behalf of clients across southeast Texas. We must put your interests ahead of our own, which we are serious about. For a free-of-charge consultation where your questions can be answered in a comfortable and pressure-free environment, please get in touch with one of our licensed family law attorneys today.

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