Divorcing a Husband who gave birth to your children
This is the situation facing an Arizona couple. Thomas and Nancy Beatie have been married for nine years. They have three children together. They both want a divorce now. However, they’re running into a snag.
It turns out Mr. Beatie was born a woman and had undergone a sex-change operation. Despite the change, Mr. Beatie retained his ability to give birth to children and had three children during the marriage.
The couple married in Hawaii in 2003. Mrs. Beatie is unable to have children, so Mr. Beatie conceived with donated sperm on all three occasions.
The couple are now together seeking a divorce. If not for the transgender issue it would be a fairly routine dissolution.
The Legal Status of the Marriage
Arizona has a ban on same-sex marriages. So now the judge has a quandary as he contemplates this divorce. On one hand, he can’t recognize a same-sex marriage as valid by the laws of his state. On the other, it’s not quite clear whether the couple is same-sex or a man and woman.
The judge will have to decide whether on which side a marriage involving a transgendered person falls.
Impact in Minnesota: What Marriage Validity Means
If this case were in Minnesota, the implications of whether or not the marriage was valid from the start are significant. It could influence custody rights, child support, alimony, and property division.
In Minnesota, marriage can grant certain rights and privileges, some of which may continue in the case of a divorce. If there never is a legal marriage, those rights could vanish.
The short answer, is probably “no”. There seem to be a lot of popular misconceptions about annulments. In particular, some believe that annulment is simply a convenient alternative to divorce and preferably a low-cost one. This is simply not the case.
Divorce vs. Annulment
A divorce is different from an annulment. A divorce is the legalized end of a valid marriage. An annulment is a legal recognition that the marriage had some deficiency from the start and therefore will not be recognized as a marriage from the start.
The reality is, in Minnesota there are only a few narrow circumstances in which you may be entitled to an annulment. In Minnesota, there are two types of situation in which an annulment may apply. There are “void” marriages and “voidable” marriages.
Void vs. Voidable Marriages
Void marriages refer to marriages that were never and can never be valid as a matter of law. These fall into three types:
- Same-sex marriages
- Marriages with close blood relatives
- Marriages when one party was still previously married
Most frequently I see this question pop up for the last situation. Specifically, a later spouse discovers that their partner was married previously and had never been legally divorced. In this situation, the latter marriage is automatically invalid in Minnesota. The solution is to have the married party legally divorce and then remarry their second spouse.
Voidable marriages are those that will be allowed to continue, despite their deficiency, unless one party or the other challenges the marriage in a timely manner based on the deficiency. Voidable marriages in Minnesota include:
- At least one party was underage (less than 18)
- At least one party was not able to consummate the marriage and the other party did not know of this at the time of marriage or
- At least one party lacked capacity due to any of:
Incapacity due to being under the influence of drugs or alcohol
One party committed fraud or used force to compel the marriage
Annulment Conditions Usually Don’t Apply to Divorce Situations
The bulk of reasons for dissolving a marriage, like financial struggles, infidelity, disagreements regarding child care, or abuse don’t generally trigger the conditions needed for an annulment. This is why divorce, not annulment, is almost always the proper course of action if one party wants to get out of a marriage.