How Can a New Jersey Marriage Be Annulled?
When a marriage hits a dead end, some couples may have the option of annulment. The procedure and legal consequences vary. A skilled Monmouth County annulment attorney can help you determine whether annulment is an advantageous option for you.
In general, an annulment is more difficult to obtain than a divorce. A divorce can be obtained on grounds of irreconcilable differences. The New Jersey no-fault divorce law enacted in 2007 requires these irreconcilable differences caused the breakdown of a marriage for at least six months and preclude any reasonable prospect of reconciliation. By contrast, the New Jersey statutes list only six specific circumstances in which a court may annul a marriage:
- Either spouse has another wife, husband, domestic partner, or partner in a civil union living at the time of the marriage.
- The spouses are within the degrees of relation prohibited by law.
- Either spouse was physically and incurably impotent at the time of the marriage, and the spouse seeking the annulment was unaware of it at the time of the marriage. The spouse seeking annulment cannot have ratified the marriage between the time it took place and the time he or she petitions the court to annul it. Ratification can be found by conduct which demonstrates that person intended the marriage to be valid and legally binding.
- Either spouse lacked the capacity to consent to the marriage due to a “want of understanding”. This can be the result of a mental condition, the effect of intoxicants or drugs, duress, or fraud. Again: a spouse seeking an annulment on these grounds cannot have ratified the marriage.
- Either spouse was under eighteen years old at the time of the marriage and has not ratified the marriage since reaching that age.
- The Superior Court determines that it must exercise its general equity jurisdiction to prevent an unfair result.
What are the Legal Effects of an Annulment?
One reason annulment in New Jersey is tougher to secure than divorce is because of the harsh result it produces. Annulment treats the marriage as if it never happened. That means no property is divided, no debt is allocated and no alimony is awarded. Most couples opt for a divorce, which legally allows them to assert these property rights.
However, spouses who have more property or higher wages than their partner are better protected if the marriage ends in annulment. In the event of a short marriage, annulment protects one from being compelled to distribute asserts or pay alimony. A spouse in this situation must have legal grounds for seeking an annulment. If those grounds exist, it can be a good way to protect your assets.
The choice to end a marriage is a difficult one. Choosing a divorce or an annulment is a procedural consideration with somewhat less emotion, but significant legal consequences. By consulting with a Monmouth County annulment lawyer, couples can protect their legal and financial interests during the legal termination of a marriage.
If you have questions about a New Jersey annulment, contact the Monmouth County prenuptial attorneys at Rozin-Golinder Law LLC by calling (732) 810-0034.
Additional Resources: It’s Legal for 14-Year-Olds to Marry. Should It Be?, by Lisa W. Foderaro, The New York Times, March 13, 2017.
More Blog Entries: How is Property Division Handled in New Jersey?, December 27, 2016, New Jersey Family Law Attorney Blog