Keeping Up With Annulment

Here is a story for the tabloids and the textbooks alike.  Kim Kardashian and New Jersey Nets player Kris Humphries had a 72-day marriage in 2011.  Kim wants a traditional divorce but Kris wants an annulment.  He is hoping to invalidate an ironclad prenuptial agreement that contains a confidentiality clause.  If he prevails, he would be able to tell-all about Kim in a highly well paid book or interview.  He might also be able to extort money from Kim to stay quiet.  Kris alleges Kim married him only to bump up ratings for her television show and make a splash on E!, which filmed their wedding.  Kris could also profit from Kim by filing a civil action for intentional infliction of emotional distress based on fraud.

Kim is worth $65 million while Kris earns $3.2 million a year playing basketball.

The couple’s story presents interesting family law questions.  An annulment voids the marriage – it is as if the marriage never happened.  The person wanting an annulment has to meet certain legal requirements in order to get an annulment.  One way to get an annulment is to say that the other spouse defrauded them in getting their consent to marry.

It is not enough to say that their spouse defrauded them, however.  A court will not award an annulment if the defrauded party had full knowledge of the facts constituting the fraud, and freely cohabited with the other spouse.

The fraud must be vital to the relationship – for example, having a secret intent never to live with their spouse (See Handley v. Handley (1960) 179 Cal.App.2d 742, 747 [defendant wife stayed in own apartment with young daughter, took property in her own name, refused to introduce plaintiff as her husband, and used her maiden name].)

What does this mean for Kris and Kim?  Kris can claim Kim never intended to live with him but only wanted him for the ratings and dumped him when she got what she wanted.  Kris, as a celebrity in his own right, however, was not naïve about the impact of marrying Kim.  He must have known that their marriage would benefit her show – and his career as well.  Further, they lived together for their short marriage.  The grounds for fraud go towards a vital aspect of the marriage relationship, but Kris might be charged with anticipating the fraud and going along anyway.  This divorce/annulment proceeding is worth watching.

The legal world of annulment is complex.  A person contemplating an annulment is wise to seek legal representation for their case.