The Legal Process of Annulment in New Jersey
Qualifying for Annulment in New Jersey
Ending a marriage is never easy, no matter how long or short the union. Although New Jersey courts rarely grant an annulment, if your marriage was short and meets specific grounds, you might find that an annulment is better for you than a divorce.
When the courts grant an annulment, your marriage becomes void. In the eyes of the law, your marriage never existed. The court requirements are precise about who qualifies for an annulment, and an annulment is not right for everyone. Contact your divorce attorney today to see if you might qualify for an annulment.
Divorce vs Annulment
When two people divorce, the process can be long and drawn out. You will have to think about dividing assets, child custody, spousal support and a plethora of other details. The discovery process is long, and once it is over, you are divorced in the eyes of the law.
An annulment has stricter guidelines as to who may qualify. The marriage is usually short, and there is no division of assets. Usually, the union does not last long enough to produce children. When an annulment is granted, your marriage is void, and you are single in the eyes of the law.
Divorce is much more common than annulment. If you need some of the marriage benefits, such as division of assets or shared finances, then an annulment might not be right for you. Your divorce attorney can best guide you depending on your situation as no two cases are alike.
Grounds for Annulment
It is very rare for the New Jersey Courts to grant an annulment. Only a limited set of circumstances qualify as grounds for an annulment. If you do qualify, you will have to submit your burden of proof to the courts. The following circumstances qualify as grounds for an annulment:
- Withholding information
Here is more information about each of these circumstances.
The age of consent nationwide is 18 years old. It is illegal for a person under the age of 18 to get married. If one or both parties is under the age of 18, then, legally, they are not old enough to consent to the marriage, and thus, their marriage cannot be recognized as legally binding.
When the underage party reaches 18, they can confirm their consent to the marriage. However, this will take the option of annulment away. If the marriage were to dissolve in the future, that person would have to get a divorce.
Incapacitation is a condition where one of the parties was too intoxicated on drugs or alcohol to understand what they were doing. They may not remember getting married at all. Intoxication at that level is valid grounds for annulment.
It is illegal to be married to more than one person at a time. If one of the parties is already married and failed to divulge their marital status to the other party before the marriage, this is grounds for annulment. The party who was already married will also be brought up on criminal charges.
Fraud in a marriage can be proved if a person misrepresents themselves or their circumstances and if that misrepresentation affects the marriage. Fraud is the most common grounds for filing for an annulment. Some examples of fraud include:
- Lies about addiction to alcohol, sex, or drugs.
- Lies about wanting to have children.
- Lies about religious beliefs when it is used as the basis for the marriage.
- Lies about the paternity of a child being carried at the time of the marriage.
- Withholding information. This information could be a wide variety of things. It could be anything from information that the person is infertile, has a criminal record, does not have a job they claim to have, or anything that could substantially impact a marriage.
- Lies about immigration status. The most common of these is that one party must marry a citizen to stay in the country.
- Lies about financial status.
Married Under Duress
Married under duress means that one party marries the other because they or a loved one has been threatened with physical harm if the marriage is not carried out. These threats, at times, are accompanied by violence. The party who threatens the other one can be held on criminal charges from their actions.
It is against the law to marry a blood relative. These grounds stand even if you do not realize that you are related at the time of the marriage but find out later. This law is in effect because there are too many genetic issues that would directly affect any children the couple might have.
Withholding Information About Impotence
If one party cannot have children, they are legally required to share their condition of impotence with the other party before marrying them. When two people get married, there is a general expectation that they will have a family. If one of those people has the knowledge that they are impotent prior to the marriage, then this is grounds for annulment.
If the information about one party being impotent is unknown by both parties until after the marriage has taken place, there is a chance that the courts will recommend a divorce alternative. If you have questions about this situation, your divorce attorney can give you guidance as to what your options may be.
Other Relevant Annulment Facts
Annulments usually are granted after a very short time. The couple usually does not have enough time together to accumulate assets between them. When a marriage takes place under false pretenses, such as those described above, that marriage is considered to be void or voidable because of those circumstances. Dissolutions granted with an annulment are not eligible for a division of assets or other rights granted during a traditional divorce. Annulments are final, and they make the marriage null and void.
Is an Annulment Right for You?
If you find yourself in a marriage that took place before you were 18 years old and therefore were not old enough to consent to the wedding, your marriage can be easily voided with a simple birth certificate. The burden of proof for many of the other grounds might be more difficult. It is an absolute requirement that you prove your grounds for annulment with irrefutable evidence.
If you believe that you qualify for an annulment, you need to consult your Hackensack, NJ, divorce attorney for guidance. They can help you file the petition for annulment with the courts. If an annulment is not right for you, they can guide you through the divorce process. You can prepare for your appointment with your attorney by gathering as much information as possible to support the grounds you believe apply to your circumstances. Give us a call today at 201-343-0078 to discuss your options.