Requirements for an Annulment in NY
In the State of New York, a marriage can end one of two ways: divorce or annulment. While divorce dissolves a legal marriage, an annulment retroactively determines the marriage was invalid from the outset. People with religious or cultural objections to divorce may view annulment as an attractive alternative means to end their marriages. However, an annulment is much more difficult to obtain than a divorce. The office of Fass & Greenberg, family lawyers in Garden City NY, can assist with gathering the information needed to file for an annulment in court and can assist in ensuring that the process is completed in a fair manner for both parties involved.
Types of Annulments
There are two different types of marriage annulments, religious annulments and civil annulments. Religious annulments are conducted by religious institutions and have no bearing upon an individual’s legal marriage status. Civil annulments are issued by courts and follow a similar procedure to divorces.
In New York, the legal action to declare a marriage annulled is brought in the Supreme Court, the court of general jurisdiction.
There are two different types of marriages that can be annulled: void marriages and voidable marriages. A void marriage is void at its inception and, as a result, can never be made legal. Examples of void marriages include a marriage between an ancestor and a descendant, such as between a parent and a child; a marriage between an uncle and his niece or an aunt and her nephew. Other examples of void marriages include: a marriage between siblings; a marriage with a person who is already married, whose marriage was not terminated or dissolved, and whose spouse is still alive; and a marriage performed by someone who did not have the legal authority to perform the marriage.
Although a void marriage is not recognized as valid, such a marriage cannot be legally terminated without obtaining a declaration of a nullity of the marriage. In addition to the declaration, the court can also legitimize children of the marriage and address all issues of the marriage, such as custody of the children, child support, maintenance and equitable distribution of marital assets. There is no time limit on bringing an annulment for a void marriage. The action may be brought anytime during the life of the parties.
Voidable marriages are marriages that, although legal at inception, can be annulled if any of the following conditions are met:
- A marriage involving a person younger than 18 may be annulled at the discretion of the court, if the spouse who is under 18 wants an annulment. The annulment will not be granted if the minor freely cohabited with the other party as spouses after reaching the age of 18;
- Either spouse was unable to understand the nature, effect and consequences of the contract of marriage because of mental incapacity (mental illness or mental retardation). This action may be brought by a relative of the incapacitated spouse at any time during the mental incapacity or after the death of the incapacitated spouse. This action may also be brought by the incapacitated spouse at any time after he/she has been restored to sound mind. This action may also be brought by the non-incapacitated spouse during the incapacity if the incapacity was present at the time of the marriage and the non-incapacitated spouse did not know of the incapacity at the time of the marriage. This action may not be brought if the spouses have freely cohabitated with the other party as spouses after the incapacitated party has been restored to sound mind;
- Either spouse was incurably unable to have sexual intercourse at the time of the marriage. This action must be brought within 5 years of the marriage;
- Either spouse consented to marry as a result of force, duress, or fraud by the other. An action brought on the basis of fraud must be brought within 3 years of the discovery of the fraud; or
- After marriage, either partner becomes incurably insane for five years or more.
A legal action is also required to annul a voidable marriage. In most cases, only the spouse not at fault may commence the action to annul. Actions for an annulment require a higher degree of proof than a divorce. Often, corroborative evidence from other witnesses is required to establish the proper grounds. Each of the reasons for an annulment listed above may also contain further restrictions.
The vast majority of annulments are based upon fraud. Fraudulent acts that warrant an annulment include marriage for a green card; falsely claiming the desire to have children; falsely claiming to love the other spouse; and falsely claiming to be pregnant.
Annulments are more difficult to acquire and less common than divorces, but for those who qualify, an annulment can be a great relief. Consult our family lawyers in Garden City NY to see if your situation allows for the possibility of an annulment.