What is an Annulment and is it Different Than Divorce?
In New Jersey, marriage is commonly ended through a divorce. However, couples may also have the option of seeking an annulment of their marriage. While divorce is considered a legal end to a marriage, annulment has the effect of nullifying a marriage so that, as a matter of law, it never existed.
What is an Annulment?
An annulment is a process by which a marriage is legally nullified. Unlike divorce which can involve equitable distribution, alimony, and child custody/support no matter how short the marriage was, annulment involves no such issues because it means that the marriage never occurred, from a legal perspective. Thus, annulments are typically only granted when the marriage was void or voidable from the outset.
Grounds for Annulment in New Jersey
Some of the more common grounds for seeking an annulment of marriage under New Jersey law include:
- Age: In New Jersey, both spouses must be at least 18 years old to get married. If one or both spouses are under the age of 18, the underage spouse lacks the legal capacity to consent to the marriage and either spouse can seek an annulment. However, once an underage spouse reaches the age of 18, they can choose to ratify the marriage. If they do ratify the marriage, annulment is no longer an option.
- Incapacity: A party may seek annulment of a marriage that they entered into while severely intoxicated to the point they are not capable of understanding the legal ramifications of getting married. A marriage can also be annulled if one or both spouses had been declared legally incapacitated.
- Bigamy/polygamy: A spouse may seek an annulment of a marriage to someone who was already in a valid marriage. Even if the spouse was separated from their ex and in the process of getting a divorce, if the second marriage occurred prior to the issuance of a judgment of divorce, that second marriage is void under New Jersey’s polygamy laws.
- Impotence: A spouse may seek annulment of a marriage to someone they did not know or did not reasonably suspect was impotent.
- Incest: A marriage between relatives who qualify as closely related under New Jersey’s incest laws may seek annulment of their marriage.
- Fraud: A spouse may seek annulment of a marriage that they were fraudulently induced into entering
- Duress: A spouse may also seek to annul a marriage that they were coerced into through the threat of physical or financial harm to themselves or a family member
Annulment Process vs. Divorce Process
Annulments typically occur in marriages of short duration. To obtain an annulment, you will need to file a complaint in court and proceed to a trial where you need to prove one of the above grounds for annulment. If the court grants an annulment, your marriage will have never legally existed, and you will have no property rights that you might have been entitled to in a divorce.
Most divorces in New Jersey are no-fault divorces, also known as divorces on grounds of irreconcilable differences or irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. However, obtaining a no-fault divorce in New Jersey requires observing certain waiting periods. If you meet one of the grounds for an annulment and you wish to terminate your marriage as quickly as possible, then it may be more advisable to pursue an annulment. A family law attorney can advise you as to your options and help you make the best decision for your interests.
Contact a Cherry Hill Family Law Attorney for a Consultation About Annulment in New Jersey Today
If you are thinking about filing for divorce, or if you have already started the divorce process and are dealing with another matter such as child custody, child support, or division of assets, you need to speak with a qualified attorney. Family law attorney, Lois Garber Schwartz, Esq. represents clients throughout the state, including Cherry Hill, Mt. Laurel, Haddonfield, and Pennsauken. She understands how challenging this time can be for you, which is why she will fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call her at (856) 482-8799 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. She has an office conveniently located at 1040 Kings Hwy. N., Suite 202, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.