Although Canon law is the general framework and guiding force for annulments, confusion can exist in the form of conflict of laws. Since annulment laws vary from state to state there are many instances where a couple can be overrun with an assortment of contrasting legal complications. The conflict of law question requires us to compare laws between states and jurisdictions.
The most common example in regards to annulment laws, exists when a couple gets married in a particular state, then seeks an annulment in a different state which they reside. To better illustrate suppose John and Nancy marry in state Y. Shortly after their wedding they move to state Z, where a set of annulment laws is implicitly different. After a few weeks the couple realizes they made a ghastly error in judgment, so John sues Nancy in state Z for an annulment. The imperative question to understand is which annulment law does the case revolve around; the annulment laws in state Y or state Z?
To address this general conflict of laws issue we will assign the appropriate titles to the example. The state that held the wedding ceremony is referred to as state of contract, while state Z is known as the domiciliary state. The parties seeking the annulment will file their suit in state Z also known as the forum state. Couples who move shortly after their wedding will file their annulment in the state which they reside, but the annulment law used in invalidating the marriage will be adopted from the state in which they marry.
For example, if John and Nancy have a valid marriage in State Y, and there annulment was granted in state Z, the marriage will still be viewed as valid. State Z must adopt the annulment law of state Y in order for a proper hearing to take place. The only way this adoption of annulment laws does not take place is if the couple manages to severely violate the public policy of their domiciliary state. If this occurs the annulment law for state Z will be adopted and the marriage will be ruled null and void.
If a couple is aware of certain annulment laws, and is desperately seeking validating one, they often will move to a state where distinct loopholes exist. Officials are on to this practice and all states have adopted marriage-evasion statutes. In cases such as these, a judge will investigate the couples intentions. He will look at the reason for annulment then weight it against the annulment laws in the state of celebration vs. the annulment law in the domiciliary state. In order to accomplish this task, the judge has a checklist that goes over nearly every possible scenario-the questioning is extensive. If the judge suspects an evasion of laws is present then the case will be thrown out and future annulment hearings may be impossible to get.
Conflict of laws regarding annulments is a problem that most are ignorant of. If one is seeking an annulment, one must understand not only the annulment law from the state of celebration but also the state in which they reside. Having a firm grasp for both sets of laws will make the process manageable and predictable.