Instructions & Forms for a Default Annulment of Marriage without Children
These instructions explain the basic steps in a default annulment without children. Each step includes a link to the form or forms needed for that step. Click on each step to expand it with more information.
“Default” means you have your spouse served with the initial annulment papers and your spouse does not file an answer with the court. If your spouse is served and defaults (does not file an answer with the court), you can finish your annulment without your spouse.
Use these instructions if:
- you and your spouse do not have any children together and no child is expected, and
- you don’t think your spouse will participate in the annulment process.
Have you read the Answers to Common Questions? These instructions are part of this TexasLawHelp.org toolkit: I want to annul or void my marriage. Before getting started, it’s important to read the Answers to Common Questions included in the Toolkit.
WARNING! These basic instructions provide general information, not legal advice. It’s a good idea to talk with a lawyer about your particular situation.
A lawyer is trained to protect your legal rights. Even if you decide to represent yourself, try to talk to a lawyer about your case before filing anything. You can hire a lawyer just to review your forms. This is called “limited scope representation.” You may also be able to talk with a lawyer for free at a legal clinic. If you need help finding a lawyer, you can:
● Contact your local lawyer referral service.
● Use our Legal Help Finder tool.
● Check our Legal Clinic Calendar
You can print these instructions to use as a checklist.
To print out both the instructions and forms, click here.
You can ask the Court to annul your marriage if:
- A spouse of the marriage was under age 18, or
- Note: If a person is between 16 and 18 years of age and married without parental consent or a court order, the marriage may be annulled. (The case is filed by a next friend on the minor’s behalf, a parent, a court-ordered managing conservator, or the minor’s guardian of the person.) Talk with a lawyer if this is the reason you are asking the court for an annulment.
- A spouse was under the influence of alcohol or narcotics, or
- Note: The spouse asking for the annulment (the petitioner) was under the influence of alcohol or narcotics to the point that they lacked the capacity to consent to the marriage. In addition, the petitioner must not have voluntarily lived with the other spouse once the alcohol or drugs had worn off.
- Either spouse is permanently impotent, or
- Note: If either party is permanently impotent (unable to have sexual intercourse) at the time of the marriage and the petitioner was unaware of the impotency at the time of the marriage, a judge may grant an annulment. In addition, the petitioner must not have voluntarily lived with the other spouse since becoming aware of the impotency.
- A spouse was convinced to marry the other spouse by fraud, duress, or force, or
- Note: A marriage may be annulled if a spouse made an important misrepresentation intending to persuade or influence the other spouse into marrying them. In addition, the petitioner must not have voluntarily lived with the other spouse since becoming aware of the fraud or being released from the duress or force.
- A spouse lacked the mental capacity to enter into the marriage, or
- Note: A court may order the marriage annulled if either spouse did not have the mental capacity to consent to the marriage or the marriage ceremony. In addition, the petitioner must not have voluntarily lived with the other spouse during a period of time when the petitioner had the mental capacity to realize he/she is married or after the petitioner discovered the other spouse lacked mental capacity to consent to the marriage. If the petitioner is asking for annulment because the other spouse lacked mental capacity, the petitioner must also show that he or she did not know or could not reasonably have known that the other spouse lacked capacity.
- A spouse concealed (hid) a prior divorce, or
- Note: The petitioner must show that the other spouse was divorced from a third-party within the 30 day window before the marriage and that the petitioner did not know (or a reasonably prudent person could not have known) of the divorce. In addition, the petitioner did not voluntarily live with the other spouse after discovering (or should have discovered) the divorce. The annulment case must be filed within 1 year of the marriage.
- The spouses were married within 72 hours of the marriage license being issued.
- Note: To qualify under these facts, the petitioner must file the annulment case within 30 days of the date of the marriage.
If you meet the legal requirements, use these instructions to ask for an annulment by filing a Petition for Annulment of Marriage (called an annulment for short).
It’s important to file for annulment in the correct county. If you file in the wrong county, your case will be dismissed and you will lose your filing fee.
Generally, you can file for annulment in the county:
- where all or a large part of the relevant facts or acts leading to the annulment happened, or
- where you or the respondent lived when the facts, acts, and marriage took place.
In addition, you or your spouse must meet these requirements: You or your spouse must live in Texas, or you must have been married in Texas. If neither you nor your spouse meet the requirements, talk with a lawyer.
Annulments can generally be filed in the same courts that hear divorce cases (district courts), and can also be filed in county courts, depending on the county. After you determine the county where you should file your annulment case, call your local district clerk and ask the clerk which court in your county handles annulment cases.
Read the Common Questions, Annulment: Answers to Common Questions, for more information.
Fill out an Original Petition to Annul Marriage (Petition) form.
The Petition asks the judge to annul your marriage. The Petition also tells your spouse what orders you want the judge to make.
When you fill out the Petition:
- Print your answers using blue or black ink. Do not leave blanks.
- Talk with a lawyer if you have questions or need help.
Who is the petitioner? You are the petitioner—the person asking the court for an annulment. You must fill out and sign the Petition. No one else needs to sign the Petition.
Who is the respondent? Your spouse is the respondent.
Note: The Petition asks for your address. Your spouse will get a copy of the Petition. If you are concerned about your spouse knowing your address, call the Family Violence Legal Line at 1-800-374-4673 for free advice.
Fill out these additional starting forms:
- Civil Case Information Sheet (NOTE: the Texas Supreme Court has repealed the rule requiring the civil case information sheet, so you may not need this form).
- Information on Suit Affecting the Family Relationship
Fill out this additional starting form if you cannot afford to pay the filing fee for your case. Call the district or county clerk’s office to learn the filing fee for your annulment case. Learn more here: Court Fees and Fee Waivers.
- Make 2 copies of your completed Original Petition to Annul Marriage.
- Make 2 copies of the Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Courts if you are asking the court to waive court costs.
- You do not need copies of the Civil Case Information Sheet or the Information on Suit Affecting the Family Relationship.
File (turn in) your completed Petition and additional starting forms with the court.
Find out if your county has standing orders. If it does, attach a copy of the standing orders to your petition.
- To file your forms online, go to E-File Texas and follow the instructions.
- To file your forms in person, take the Petition and additional starting forms (and copies) to the district or county clerk’s office in the county you determined is the correct county to file for annulment.
At the clerk’s office:
- Turn in your Petition and other starting forms (and copies).
- Tell the clerk you want to have your spouse served in person. This means a sheriff, constable or private process server will deliver the initial annulment papers to your spouse in person. (Remember: If your spouse will agree to sign the necessary court forms, you do not need to have your spouse served. Follow these instructions instead: Instructions & Forms for an Agreed Annulment of Marriage without Children.)
- Pay the filing fee and issuance fee (or file your completed Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs if you cannot afford the fee). You can call the clerk’s office ahead of time to learn the amount of the fees for your case.
- Ask the clerk if there is a local standing order that you need to follow or attach to any of your documents.
- Ask the clerk if there are local rules or procedures you need to know about for your annulment—such as standing orders that you have to attach to the petition.
- The clerk will write your “Cause Number” and “Court Number” at the top of the first page of your Petition. (Write these numbers at the top of any document you file in your annulment case.)
- The clerk will “file stamp” your copies with the date and time. The clerk will keep the original and give you back your copies. One copy is for you and one copy is for your spouse.
- The clerk will print a form called a “citation.” The citation tells your spouse that you have filed for annulment. The citation also tells your spouse that unless he or she files an answer with the court you will be able to finish your annulment case by default (without your spouse). The clerk will attach the other copy of your Petition to the citation. The citation with a copy of your Petition attached are the “initial annulment papers” that must be served on your spouse by a constable, sheriff or private process server. Read Step 5 for instructions.
You must have your spouse served with the initial annulment papers.
To have your spouse served in person:
- send the initial annulment papers to a constable, sheriff or private process server in the county where your spouse lives or works,
- include the service fee (call first to learn the fee) or a file-stamped copy of your Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs,
- also include a self-addressed and stamped envelope.
The constable, sheriff or private process server will:
- give the initial annulment papers to your spouse,
- complete a Return of Service form that says when and where your spouse was served,
- send the completed Return of Service to you or the court.
The completed Return of Service is proof your spouse was served. Your spouse will NOT have to sign anything.
If the Return of Service is sent to you, file it at the clerk’s office. The Return of Service must be on file for at least 10 days before you can finish your case, not counting the day it is filed or the day you go to court to finish your case.
NOTE: Getting your spouse served in person is best. However, there are other ways to get someone served. To learn about more, read: How to Serve the Initial Court Papers. If you have questions, you can use Ask a Question to chat with a lawyer or law student online.
Fill out the Decree of Annulment form: Decree of Annulment.
You will ask the judge to sign your Decree of Annulment form when it’s time to finish your annulment. When signed by the judge, the Decree of Annulment makes orders that your marriage is null and void, and that you have accumulated no community property other than personal effects. It may include other orders depending on your case.
The Decree of Annulment form must be completely filled out (except for the judge’s signature) before you go to court.
When you fill out the Decree of Annulment:
- Print your answers using blue or black ink.
- Do not leave blanks.
- Talk to a lawyer if you have questions or need help.
TIP: It’s a good idea to have a family law lawyer review your completed Decree of Annulment. You can hire a lawyer just to review your Decree of Annulment. This is called “limited scope representation.” You may also be able to talk with a lawyer for free at a legal clinic. If you need help finding a lawyer, you can:
Wait the waiting periods that apply to your case.
- 20 + day waiting period – From the day your spouse is served, your spouse must have at least 20 days plus the next Monday at 10:00 a.m. to file an Answer. Find the day your spouse was served on a calendar, count out 20 more days, then go to the next Monday. Your spouse must have until this date to file an answer. If your spouse does not file an answer by this date (and all other requirements have been met) you can finish your case by default without your spouse.
- Note: Your spouse can file an answer up until the time you finish your annulment case, even if the 20 + day waiting period has already passed.
- 10 + day waiting period - The constable, sheriff, or private process server should have completed a Return of Service form stating when your spouse was served. The Return of Service form must be on file with the court for at least 10 days before you can finish your case. Important: When counting the 10 day waiting period, do not count the day the Return of Service is filed with the court and do not count the day you go to court to finish your case.
- Call the clerk’s office to find out if your spouse filed an answer.
If your spouse filed an answer, you CANNOT finish your annulment by default.
- If your spouse filed an answer and will now agree to sign your completed Decree of Annulment, you can finish your case by agreement. Use these instructions instead: Instructions & Forms for an Agreed Annulment of Marriage without Children.
- If your spouse will not agree to sign your completed Decree of Annulment your case is contested. To finish a contested annulment, you must set a contested final hearing. You must give your spouse at least 45 days’ notice of the final hearing. Read this article to learn more: How to Set a Contested Final Hearing (in a Family Law Case). Remember: It’s always best to have a lawyer if your case is contested.
If your spouse has NOT filed an answer, you CAN finish your annulment by default as long as all of the following are true.
- Your spouse was successfully served by a constable, sheriff or private process server.
- A Return of Service form (stating when and where your spouse was served) has been on file with the clerk’s office for at least 10 days (not counting the day it was filed or the day you go to court).
- The 20 + day waiting period for your spouse to file an answer has passed.
- Your spouse has not filed an answer and does not file an answer before you finish your annulment. (Remember, your spouse can file an answer up until the time you finish your annulment, even if the 20 + day waiting period has already passed.)
If you CAN finish your annulment by default, fill out these additional forms and make 1 copy of each form:
- Certificate of Last Known Address
- Military Status Declaration (If your case is filed in Harris County, fill out a Military Status Affidavit instead. Sign it in front of a notary.)
- Statement of Evidence (only if your spouse was served by Publication)
- Call the clerk’s office to find out when and where the court hears uncontested annulment cases.
- Call the clerk’s office again the day before you plan to go to court to make sure your spouse still has not filed an answer. If your spouse has filed an answer, you cannot finish your case by default. Go back to Step 8.
- You must give testimony to the judge when you go to court to finish your annulment. This is sometimes called “prove-up” testimony. You will testify about each of the points in your petition form. Remember, everything you say in court must be true and correct. You can be charged with a crime for lying in court.
- Read the article Tips for the Courtroom for more information about going to Court.
- A file-stamped copy of your Original Petition to Annul Marriage.
- A file-stamped copy of the Return of Service form showing when and where your spouse was served.
- A completely filled out Decree of Annulment signed by you.
- A completed Certificate of Last Known Address form and 1 copy.
- A completed Declaration of Military Status (or Affidavit of Military Status) and 1 copy.
- If your spouse was served by posting, a completed Statement of the Evidence.
- If your spouse was served by publication, a completed Statement of the Evidence and the lawyer you hired to serve as attorney ad litem for your spouse.
When you get to the courthouse, go to the clerk’s office.
- Ask the clerk if you need the court file or docket sheet (list of what has been filed in your case).
- Ask the clerk to check one more time to see if your spouse has filed an answer. If your spouse has filed an answer, you will not be able to finish your case by default. Go back to Step 8.
- File the Certificate of Last Known Address and the Declaration of Military Status (or Affidavit of Military Status). Ask the clerk to file stamp your copy of each form. Bring a file-stamped copy of each form with you to court.
When you get to the courtroom, tell the clerk you are there and give the clerk your paperwork. Sit down until the judge calls your case.
When the judge calls your case, walk to the front of the courtroom and stand in front of the judge’s bench. The judge will ask you to raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth. The judge may ask you questions or may ask you to read your testimony. It’s a good idea to write down everything you want to say so you can read it to the judge if you get nervous.
The judge will listen to what you say and review your papers. If everything is in order the judge will sign your Decree of Annulment.
- File (turn in) your Decree of Annulment and any other orders signed by the judge. Your annulment is NOT final until you do so.
- Get a certified copy of your Decree of Annulment and any other orders signed by the judge from the clerk while you are there. The clerk may charge a fee for the certified copies.
Send a file-stamped copy of your Decree of Annulment and any other orders signed by the judge to your spouse.