By Amanda C. Musselwhite, Attorney
The Gasper Law Group, PLLC
You had the perfect wedding with the perfect rings! You were busy planning your house in the suburbs with your 2.5 kids, your cat, and your dog. Suddenly, you realized your prince was really a frog or your princess was really an ogre! You discovered things so unexpected about your new spouse that you would not have married them had you known prior to tying the knot. Is there a way to get unmarried?
In Colorado, you can file a petition for invalidity of marriage to undo your vows of matrimony. However, there are only a few grounds on which that petition can be granted. One of the less utilized reasons for requesting a petition for invalidity is based upon fraud. Under C.R.S. 14-10-111(1)(d), a petition for invalidity may be granted when “[o]ne party entered into the marriage in reliance upon a fraudulent act or representation of the other party, which fraudulent act or representation goes to the essence of the marriage.”
The requesting party will have to show that their spouse acted fraudulently and the requesting party relied upon that fraud when they were married. Further, that fraud will have to be something that goes to the essence of the marriage. The fraud cannot be something minor or peripheral, it must be something that had the requesting party known, they would not have consented to the marriage.
Whether fraud exists that goes to the essence of the marriage is a fact based question that is determined on a case by case basis. The judge will evaluate the evidence that the party acted fraudulently, as well as all of the other evidence surrounding the parties’ reasons for marrying and how important the fraudulent act was to the aggrieved party.
In Colorado, there are few cases providing guidance as to what constitutes fraud to the essence of the marriage. Fraud to the essence of the marriage has been found when a wife married husband solely to obtain a permanent green card. In re Marriage of Joel, 2012 COA 128. It was found when an ex-husband led ex-wife to believe that he had a terminal illness and ex-wife remarried ex-husband solely because she did not want him to die alone. In re Marriage of Farr, 228 P.3d 267 (2010).
Of course, there are some well-known examples of celebrity marriages which have ended in annulment due to fraud, or at least claims of the same. She may be marrying Kanye West in Paris soon, but in 2011 Kim Kardashian married basketball player Kris Humphries. The marriage lasted 72 days. She filed for divorce. He filed for an annulment, citing “fraud.” Renee Zellweger filed for an annulment of her marriage to Kenny Chesney due to “fraud” on Sept. 14, 2005, just four months into their marriage. She later claimed that fraud was a term she used only for legal purposes. Pamela Anderson and Rick Solomon married in Las Vegas in October of 2007 during a ninety minute break into between shows in which Anderson was appearing. In December, she filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. He filed for an annulment, citing fraud. Anderson and Solomon’s 2007 marriage was terminated, but they have since remarried. Their second marriage has already surpassed the three-month mark.
To receive an effective evaluation of your circumstances and whether a Petition for Invalidity of Marriage would be advisable, you should contact an attorney in your jurisdiction. You should act as quickly as possible due to time restraints to protect your interests.