Is My New Jersey Marriage Eligible for Annulment?
While a much less common route for ending a marriage than divorce, annulment is an alternative way to part ways from a spouse. Although possibly offering certain fiscal or religious benefits, it can be difficult to obtain an annulment in New Jersey. Below, you’ll find information on what makes annulment different from divorce, and the grounds for obtaining an annulment in New Jersey.
What makes annulment different?
Annulment is unlike divorce in that it is a legal pronouncement that a marriage never happened. While divorce ends a valid marriage, annulment says that the marriage was always void or voidable. Annulments generally happen after brief marriages. Unlike with divorce, there is no requirement that a party filing for an annulment has resided in New Jersey for a year; they need only be current valid residents when they file. Annulments alter the legal rights that former spouses would have in the event of a divorce. Family part judges will not divide the parties’ property acquired during the marriage according to equitable distribution laws, but they are able to award alimony and/or child support. However, alimony is less commonly awarded to spouses whose marriage was annulled. Annulments may sometimes be more favorably viewed by certain religious communities.
When will a New Jersey court grant an annulment?
Unlike New Jersey’s no-fault divorce laws, succeeding in an application for an annulment requires that you prove some condition is present that requires an annulment, and courts are generally disinclined to find that such conditions are present. Legal grounds for New Jersey annulments include:
- Bigamy, i.e. the spouse has another domestic partner or spouse alive when the marriage occurs.
- Lack of capacity, or the inability to offer true consent due to intoxication from a drug or alcohol, or as a result of a mental condition.
- Impotence, defined as being unable to have children or sexual relations. This can apply to male or female spouses. This ground for annulment is only available where the non-impotent spouse wasn’t aware of the impotence or sterility before the marriage.
- Underage spouses, where either or both spouses are under 18.
- Incest, where the spouses are certain blood relatives.
- Duress, if a spouse coerced the other spouse to get married by using a threat of bodily harm.
- Fraud, where a lie regarding an essential fact of the marriage induced one spouse to consent to the marriage. Grounds to annul a marriage on the basis of fraud can include: a spouse lying about their religious beliefs, when those beliefs are essential to a marriage for the deceived spouse; lying to conceal a substance abuse problem; or where a woman does not tell a man that she is pregnant with another man’s child when they get married.
If you would like to discuss the possibility of obtaining an annulment or filing for divorce, contact skilled New Jersey divorce and annulment attorney John B. D’Alessandro for a consultation on your case, at 908-964-0102.