It doesn’t happen often but occasionally a new client asks me about the process of getting his marriage annulled.
As an attorney focusing on divorce for men, I tell people who ask the question that the requirements for receiving an annulment are pretty straightforward. Usually, one is granted if the marriage is quite short, if there are no children as a result of the union and if the couple – or neither person – acquired or received substantial assets during the time the couple was married.
But there are other circumstances where, under New Jersey law, an annulment will be granted.
Grounds for Annulling a New Jersey Marriage
The concept of ending a marriage via annulment is appealing, especially for people whose religion discourages or prohibits the idea of divorce entirely. Yet in most circumstances, one is granted only if you or your spouse made a significant misrepresentation or committed a fraud that strikes at the heart of a marital relationship.
There are seven specific circumstances under which a judge is likely to grant an annulment.
- Underage. In New Jersey, someone must be 18 to legally marry. Being underage at the time of a marriage can be used as the reason for asking a court to annul a marriage.
- Duress. “Shotgun” marriages are not allowed so if either party was coerced into a marriage under the threat of violence – either against you or someone else – this can be used to request an annulment.
- Bigamy. If either you or your spouse is still legally married to somebody else and a divorce never was finalized, this can be the basis for requesting an annulment.
- Incompetent. If your spouse was not mentally capable of saying “I do” willingly, the marriage can be annulled. This usually happens if either you or your wife was suffering from a mental illness or was intoxicated or under the influence of narcotics at the time of the marriage.
- Incest. On rare occasions, a couple discover – often accidentally – that they are blood relatives and cannot legally marry so a judge will grant an annulment.
- Infertility. If your wife is incapable of having children and knowingly hid this fact from you, this can form the basis for annulling the marriage.
- Fraud. If your spouse materially misrepresented certain facts that have a fundamental impact on the marriage, this may constitute fraud which can justify an annulment. A few examples include hiding a substance abuse problem, lying about her desire to have children, not telling you she needed to be married to fix her immigration status or she became pregnant by another man before marrying you.
What Does Annulment Mean?
Strictly speaking, annulment doesn’t end a marriage. Rather, it provides a formal acknowledgement by the state that your marriage never existed in a legal sense.
Some people still are concerned about the social stigma of being divorced although in an era where half of all marriages end in divorce this isn’t as much of an issue as it was in our parent’s day. And while an annulment may eliminate the marriage from the books, it won’t end any child support requirements you might have.
Because the basis for an annulment are narrowly defined, if you are considering seeking one or wonder if you might be eligible, please call me or any of the attorneys at the family law firm for men in New Jersey. Reach us at either 973.562.0100 in Nutley or, in Montclair, at 862.245.4620. Contact us.