Celebrity Annulment Petition Alleges Fraud in “Simply Legal Language”

After just four months of marriage, celebrity Renee Zellweger filed a now well-publicized petition for annulment. In the petition, she reportedly alleged fraud by husband Kenny Chesney. Since filing, Zellweger has been widely quoted as saying that the allegations were “simply legal language…and not a reflection of Kenny’s character”.

The case is interesting in two respects. First, it is one of those currently rare cases for annulment. Unlike divorce, which wraps up a marriage that has gone bad, annulment erases the marriage, as though it never happened in the first place.

For many reasons, people often prefer to annul their marriages rather than divorce. But annulments are typically much harder to get, requiring grounds – even in states which normally have “no fault” divorce.

Second, the fraud allegations cited may be intended to qualify this marriage for annulment. In Florida, fraudulent inducement of marriage is one of the handful of grounds for annulment. (But Florida has additional requirements as well.)

Although I am not expressing any opinion about the meaning of the quoted language in the first paragraph, some folks might be tempted to interpret that language as a virtual admission that the allegation is an empty one, made solely to satisfy a legal requirement.

Although it may be different in California, if a family court petition in Florida is not filed through an attorney, the person filing the petition must swear in writing to the truth of its contents. Even if that requirement doesn’t apply, unless the case is settled by mutual agreement, the person filing the petition in Florida will eventually have to testify in court as to the grounds – or no final judgment will be entered.

But this case is in Tinseltown. Where fiction rules.

Don’t try this at home.