Many of our New Jersey divorce clients are those ending years-long marriages. But what if it’s only been a few days or weeks? Should you get an annulment or go through the divorce process?
There is no shortage of quickie marriage examples in the tabloids. Actress Pamela Anderson and film mogul Jon Peters called it quits in February after just 12 days of wedlock. Actor Bradley Cooper was married to Jennifer Esposito just four months. Britney Spears was married to her childhood friend Jason Alexander for a total of 55 hours.
Short marriages give way to splashy stories, but Hollywood isn’t the only place they happen. One analysis by TIME Magazine revealed marriages involving the very young (up to age 20), women over 45 and divorced men over 50 are more likely crash and burn quickly. We may see an uptick in the unraveling of brief unions in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the pressure of stay-at-home orders, job losses and health concerns mount.
If you realize sooner than later that you should have said, “I don’t,” you have a few legal options. They may include annulment, but it will depend whether you’re prepared to present legal grounds for it. Consult with an experienced East Brunswick annulment lawyer to determine your next move.
What is an Annulment?
An annulment and a divorce both have the same basic effect in that they dissolve the legal relationship. However, while divorce ends the marriage, annulment treats the marriage as if it never happened.
An annulment is an appealing option for very short marriages. Fair warning, though: Be prepared to give a reason. Allowable grounds for annulment are spelled out in N.J.S.A. § 2A:34-1. They include:
- Bigamy (either party already has another living wife, husband, partner in a civil union or domestic partner).
- One or both spouses were incapable of comprehending they were marrying, either due to intoxication or a mental condition.
- One or both spouses has incurable impotence.
- Fraud or lies induced one party into marriage.
- The union is illegal because the parties are too closely related.
Note that annulment generally will not impact paternity, and the length of marriage will not impact the obligation parents have to financially support a child they share.
Advantages of annulment include:
- May protect a person’s property.
- Faster resolution than divorce.
- May help a person regain benefits to which they were previously eligible (i.e., spousal support from a previous marriage, certain federal benefits, etc.).
- Reduced social stigma compared to a divorce (particularly for those devout in a certain faith).
However, divorce may still be a preferable option for some.
Is Divorce a Better Option?
This is a big decision that should be discussed with a New Jersey family lawyer experienced in handling divorces and annulments. Your attorney can explain the pros and cons as it relates to the specifics of your situation.
Some couples after a very brief marriage still opt for divorce. For one thing, there is no requirement to formally declare wrongdoing or a lapse in judgment beyond “irreconcilable differences.”
Assets will probably be a factor to consider. In most brief marriages, it is unlikely much marital property was accumulated. However, some assets might be considered marital property (and subject to equitable division) if couples were together for a substantial time prior to the marriage.
Spousal support is probably unlikely if the marriage was short-lived. An exception would be if there was a prenuptial agreement that indicated alimony should be paid regardless of the marriage length.
With fewer issues to resolve in ending a marriage that is over before it really starts, most loose ends can be tied up quickly in mediation, without the time and expense of multiple hearings and judicial rulings.
If you have questions about the best way of dissolving a brief union, our East Brunswick divorce attorneys can help.
Contact us at (732) 810-0034 or email us through our website.