Getting a Marriage Annulment in New Jersey
Much like a divorce, an annulment is a legal proceeding that ends a marriage. Unlike a divorce, however, an annulment treats a marriage as though it never existed. Because an annulment recognizes that a marriage was never valid, the proceedings associated with divorce such as alimony and division of property generally do not exist with an annulment.
Divorce can also bring a certain stigma that many people might want to avoid. For example, after a divorce proceeding, both parties become classified as “divorced” in official documents. Following an annulment, both parties would be classified as “single” instead.
Lastly, it’s important to understand that a civil annulment is not the same as a religious annulment. A civil annulment, which we will be discussing here, is legally recognized whereas a religious annulment can only be granted by a church, clergy, or religious institution. Religious annulments bear no legal standing in the state in which they take place.
For some couples, avoiding the stigma of divorce for religious reasons make moving forward with an annulment the best option, although it is only available In limited circumstances. Also, even when an annulment is available, divorce might be a better choice. Talk to an experienced New Jersey family law attorney before you decide.
What Are the Grounds for an Annulment in New Jersey?
You may be eligible for an annulment in the state of New Jersey if you meet certain qualifications. The qualifications include the following:
You may qualify for an annulment if either you or your spouse were under the age of 18 when you got married. A further requirement is that since getting married, you and your spouse have not engaged in sexual relations.
An annulment may be granted if either you or your spouse were unable to understand that you were getting married at the time of your marriage. This can be due to a variety of reasons including intoxication or mental illness. For example, if you and your spouse get too drunk and proceed with a shotgun wedding at a chapel, this could be grounds for an annulment due to incapacitation.
If you are in a situation where severe threats were made against you or your spouse, forcing you to get married, you might be eligible for an annulment. For example, if a family member threatens violence against a couple if they do not get married, this could be considered a marriage under duress.
Marriages that take form under the guise of fraud or other lies are eligible for annulment. If one spouse lies about or fails to disclose information about wanting or not wanting to have children, addictions, religious beliefs, or even an undisclosed pregnancy by another person, this can be considered a marriage under fraudulent circumstances. If a couple gets married for immigration purposes, this could be deemed a fraudulent marriage as well.
If the couple is too closely related, they may be eligible for an annulment.
If either you or your spouse is married to another person and did not disclose that information, this is considered bigamy and is grounds to move forward with an annulment. You must be able to prove your claims of bigamy. Though it is rarely prosecuted, bigamy is also a criminal offense in New Jersey.
You may qualify for an annulment if your spouse fails to disclose issues with impotence, or the inability to bear children, before you get married.
How Do I Get an Annulment in New Jersey?
Moving forward with an annulment is very similar to the process of filing for divorce. To begin the process, either you or your spouse must be a resident of New Jersey when you file. If your residential status is in order, you will then need to petition your spouse for the annulment. The petition consists of filling out a form called a “Complaint for Annulment.” In this form, you will be asked to provide personal information regarding you, your spouse, your children, and the reason you are filing for an annulment.
The “Complaint for Annulment” must then be delivered to your spouse via another adult. This process is called “serving the petition.” The person who “serves” the annulment papers must fill out an Affidavit of Service that then gets filed with the court.
After the annulment papers are served, your spouse will either agree or disagree with the annulment. If they agree, a judge will move forward with granting the annulment and will enter a decree of annulment without the need for a hearing.
If your spouse does not agree to the annulment, then both you and your spouse will move forward with a hearing. In your hearing, a judge will ask both you and your spouse to testify, provide evidence, and defend your standing. The judge will then make a decision on whether an annulment will be granted. If your annulment is granted, the judge will issue a Judgment of Nullity.
When to Seek Legal Representation
Just as divorces can get complicated, so too can annulments. Having a qualified attorney by your side can help you navigate the process and obtain the annulment you deserve. Call the Law Offices of John B. D’Alessandro today if you have questions about whether you qualify for an annulment and how to proceed.