Interviewer: When I hear the term annulment, what does that have to do with in terms of family law?
Grounds for Annulment: Entering into a Marriage Fraudulently
Wendy Doyle: I’ve heard some misconception about annulment, too. Somebody has to have committed complete fraud going into the case. For example, they’re not the person they said they were. Another grounds for annulment is if there was no consummation, which means they didn’t have sex. I have gotten cases annulled before when you’re able to show that. Sometimes the parties agree to it.
You also have to consider whether or not that’s in the best interest of the parties in the case. Factors you would consider include if they were together for a long time and if they had assets.
Asset Ownership after a Marriage
If you’re married, you have certain rights. You have property in marriage. As far distribution is concerned, when you’re married, it’s marital property regardless of whether it’s in the other party’s name.
If you’re not married and it’s only in your name, obviously, the other side’s not entitled to it. A possible exception with married couples is if unless you can show that the asset was from a non-marital source, and you kept it separate during the course of the marriage. There are a whole line of cases on non-marital property. It used to be called special equity properties.
Is It Possible to Overcome Emotion during a Divorce to Promote a Resolution?
Interviewer: Generally speaking, how do you help remove the emotional aspect of your client’s case?
While It Is Natural to Experience a Variety of Emotions during a Divorce, It Is Not Advisable to Use the Proceeding to Exact Revenge
Wendy Doyle: People are emotional during their divorces. My job is to tell my clients what the legal viewpoint is about an issue. Sometimes people are operating from an emotional perspective, and they are angry, especially if there’s adultery involved. People are angry and they want revenge.
Some Individuals May Benefit from Counseling in Order to Proceed with the Divorce
In those cases, I may suggest therapy and counseling. I do tell my clients when I feel that they are not acting emotionally stable. I will direct them to a therapist. I have a bevy of therapists that I use.
Extreme Acrimony during a Divorce Is Harmful to the Children in the Family
In particular, when I see high conflict cases now over children and the parents are fighting and it’s unhealthy, I now send my cases right to a parent facilitator to work on some of their parenting issues. When parents have a great deal of animosity towards each other, it hurts the children so much.
In think children are okay in divorce cases—as long as the parents get along. As long as you can show your children that you can handle conflict without violence and animosity, your children are fine.
When I was a guardian ad litem attorney, we worked with a particular judge. She was one of the best judges. She sat on the bench and talked about the effect of violence on children.
She said that the studies have shown when there’s domestic violence in the home, children’s adrenaline shoots through their bodies and goes through their brain and changes the structure of their brains. She said these are the children we see back when they’re older in juvenile delinquency court. They’re damaged from violence.
Attorneys Do Have a Duty to Assist Families in Crisis
I think that attorneys have a duty to try to help families when they’re in crisis. The facilitator helps them deal with conflict and see what their behavior is doing to the children.
I have a couple of people that I work with that are phenomenal and provide my clients with real relief. That’s the whole point. Unfortunately, the system isn’t designed to help families that way. You have a right to go to court. You have a right to have your issues resolved. The emotional issues the court is not equipped to handle from intense conflict with parents.