An annulment is a legal process that severs a marital relationship by voiding it. An annulment is different from a divorce in that a divorce ends a marriage, whereas an annulment deems that the marriage never happened. While New Jersey allows for a no-fault divorce, annulment requires the marriage to meet certain criteria in order to qualify for an annulment.
GROUNDS FOR ANNULMENT
The reasons for obtaining an annulment are very limited, and as such most married couples do not qualify for an annulment and must use divorce to end the marriage. This is because annulments are only granted in cases in which the marriage should not have been valid in the first place. The following are considered grounds for annulment in the State of New Jersey:
- either spouse was under age at the time of the marriage, and once attaining age 18 have not had sexual relations
- incapacity by mental illness or intoxication
- fraud, or lies, by you or your spouse
- incurable impotence at the time of the marriage
A common misconception of annulment is that it is an available option in marriages that only last a short time. A marriage that lasts only a matter of months but does meet one of the grounds above will not qualify for an annulment.
WHY CHOOSE ANNULMENT OVER DIVORCE
Annulment is often used by those who seek to avoid the stigma of divorce. When annulment is considered it is often by those New Jersey residents who may oppose divorce on religious grounds. Annulment is a civil process, however, not a religious one. A New Jersey resident that seeks a religious annulment should speak with a clergy person.
LIMITATIONS OF ANNULMENT
Other than the limited grounds for annulment, there are several other limitations to obtaining an annulment over a divorce. First, there is no equitable distribution in an annulment. In a divorce the legal process equitably divides the couple’s assets and debts. In an annulment, however, this is not the case with annulment. To divide property, the parties may be able to use contract law.
EFFECT OF ANNULMENT
Once a judge issues a Judgment of Nullity, your marriage is considered void, which means that it is treated as if you were never married. While there will be no equitable distribution of marital property, a judge in an annulment case may award child support and/or alimony.
In a New Jersey divorce, one or both of the spouses must have been a resident of the state for at least one year before filing the action for divorce. Unlike divorce, there is no residency requirement to qualify for annulment in New Jersey. In order to qualify for an annulment, you simply must reside in New Jersey when you file for annulment.
An annulment is a complicated legal process that requires the advice and guidance of an experiences family law attorney. Call Peter Van Aulen today for a free initial consultation to discuss your particular case and determine whether annulment is the right choice for you.
N.J.S.A. 2A:34-1 Causes for judgments of nullity.