Many people assume annulment is a quick, simple way to put an end to a marriage. However, if you’re in New Jersey, this might not be the case.
Our Middlesex County family law attorneys can help guide you through the process to find the best way to end the union. To determine which approach is ideal in your case, it’s helpful to first explain what an annulment is, and how it compares to a divorce.
An annulment is a legal decree that formally states a marriage is not – and was not ever – valid. In effect, the marriage is deemed void as if it had not ever existed.
A divorce, meanwhile, is a legal dissolution of a marriage. It puts an end to a valid marriage, effectively rendering both parties “single” and eligible to remarry (or not).
While an annulment is a declaration that the marriage was formed illegally, a divorce involves a marriage that became broken after it was legally formed.
Why Seek Annulment?
There are numerous reasons why one would seek annulment in New Jersey, but none of them involve the process being fast or easy.
The first is that an annulment may not carry the same kind of social stigma one might face in a divorce.
The second (which may be closely tied to the first) is for religious reasons. There are many religions that may frown upon or outright forbid divorce. However, they may be more amenable when the marriage is annulled.
Finally, there could be financial reasons. Primarily, it comes down to alimony and equitable division of property. New Jersey courts may be less inclined to award alimony or stipulate to divisions of shared property when the marriage never existed in the first place. Property division could still occur via general contract law.
Child custody in annulment would be handled the same as any other case, but it’s largely a non-issue in annulment because most cases involve very brief marriages, often those that were never consummated.
Requirements for Annulment in New Jersey
All states have their own individual requirements for divorce and annulment. New Jersey annulment requirements are outlined in N.J. Stat. Ann. §2A:34-1.
While there are numerous “grounds” one can cite when seeking a Middlesex divorce, the two most commonly-cited are:
- No-fault divorce. In this, separation is the sole grounds. So long as the pair live separately for at least 18 months and there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation, one can seek a no-fault divorce, per N.J. Stat. Ann. 2A:34-2A(d).
- Irreconcilable differences. Prior to 2007, divorcees had to establish either separation or “extreme cruelty,” which required one to cite a cause (i.e., adultery, imprisonment, addiction, desertion, etc.). Irreconcilable differences allows the pair not to point blame, but merely to say there has been a breakdown of the union for six months or more.
The annulment statute, meanwhile, holds a nullity of marriage can be rendered in cases wherein:
- One of those involved had a wife, husband, partner in a civil union couple or domestic partner living at the time of the new marriage. In other words, one of those involved committed bigamy.
- The parties were prohibited by law from entering into the marriage.
- One or more lacked the capacity to enter into the marriage, either because of a mental condition, duress, intoxication or fraud.
- The husband or wife was under 18 at the time of marriage, unless the union was confirmed after turning 18.
- Impotence. Essentially, one or both parties was physically and incurably impotent, assuming the person filing for annulment did not know of this at the time of the marriage.
- Incest. (We saw a case of this recently in a case out of Oklahoma, when, as reported by People, a woman was criminally charged after marriages to her daughter and son was annulled.)
Most annulments will involve a very brief marriage, wherein few or no shared assets or debts have been acquired between the pair.
The bottom line is this: Annulment is not a fast-track to divorce. It involves a very specific set of circumstances. To determine if this is the right course for your situation, our attorneys will carefully weigh the facts in your case.
If you are considering a New Jersey annulment, contact Middlesex family law attorneys at Rozin-Golinder Law LLC by calling (732) 810-0034.
Additional Resources: N.J. Stat. Ann. §2A:34-1
More Blog Entries:
New Jersey Child Custody Modification Requires Substantial Change in Circumstance, Oct. 17, 2017, Middlesex Family Law Attorney Blog