As a San Antonio, Texas divorce lawyer, I find that many clients don't realize that annulment and divorce are NOT the only ways to end a marriage. There are a number of situations which can result in a "Void Marriage" in Texas, meaning that for one reason or another, the marriage was invalid.
Whenever discussing the subject of void marriage, I also have to explain the difference between a "void marriage" and a "voidable" marriage. The general idea is that a void marriage is invalid and can NEVER become valid under any circumstances. For instance, a marriage between two close relatives, such as brother and sister, mother and father, etc., is a void marriage. Such a marriage is void for all purposes and can never become a valid marriage.
By contrast, a marriage entered into when one of the parties to the marriage is already married to someone else (bigany) is void only until the a divorce or annulment is obtained from the first spouse. For instance, let's say a man starts divorce proceedings against his wife, believes the divorce is final, and then remarries someone else. Later, he discovers that the first divorce was never finalized. This makes his second marriage is voidable (void for the time being), but it will become a valid marriage if he goes back and finalizes the original divorce. The second marriage will become a valid marriage as of the date that the first marriage is dissolved. In other words, either spouse can go to court and have the second marriage declared void as long as he or she does so before the first marriage is dissolved. There is one important exception to this rule: if the man and 2nd wife in our example are not living together and not holding themselves out as being married at the time the first divorce becomes final, then the second marriage does NOT become a valid marriage. This can get tricky legally, and may still result in litigation just to get a court order that says the second marriage is void.
Annulment is another example of a "voidable" marriage. There are number of situations which are grounds for having an annulment, but the marriage remains valid until someone files for an annulment. In many cases, the circumstances which constitute grounds for an annulment may go away, at which point an annulment is no longer possible. For example, the most common grounds for annulment is "fraud in the inducement of the marriage." If one party uses fraud to induce someone into a marriage, then the defrauded spouse can get the marriage annuled if he or she does not voluntarily live with the fraudulent spouse as soon as the fraud is discovered. However, if the spouses continue to live with one another after the fraud is discovered, annulment is no longer possible, and the marriage may only be dissolved by divorce.
A related topic of void and voidable marriages is the issue of a "putative marriage." Going back to my bigamy example, the second-marriage spouse typically is unaware of his or her spouse's previous marriage (which is not yet dissolved). The second-marriage spouse, therefore, thinks he or she is validly married and behaves as such. He or she is then called a "putative spouse." This creates a whole new set of problems, which I will discuss in another post.