An annulment is an action that negates a marriage. Unlike a divorce, whereby there is a record of the marriage, an annulment treats a marriage like it never happened. Many people simply feel uncomfortable about being labeled as “divorced,” and prefer to start with a clean slate—theoretically erasing their past.
Many people believe that their religion prohibits them from divorcing, and may seek an annulment on these grounds. However, there are different procedures for “religious annulments.” These can only be granted by a religious entity and have no legal effect on your marital union in the state’s eyes.
Annulments in New Jersey are governed by N.J.S.A. 2A:34-1. In order to successfully have a marriage annulled, you must meet one of several statutorily specified grounds for the negation of your union. Some of these grounds include:
- Either party has another wife, husband, partner in a civil union couple or domestic partner living at the time of a second or other marriage.
- The parties are within the degrees prohibited by law. Such a marriage can only be annulled during the lifetime of the parties. Once one of the parties has died, the marriage cannot be annulled for this reason.
- Either of the parties was at the time of marriage physically and incurably impotent. The party making the complaint for annulment needs to have been ignorant of such impotency or incapability at the time of the marriage, and the marriage has not been subsequently ratified.
- Either of the parties lacked the capacity to marry due to want of understanding because of mental condition, or the influence of intoxicants, drugs, or similar agents. If either party did not consent to the marital relationship due to duress or fraud as to the essentials of marriage and the marriage has not subsequently ratified.
- The party making the complaint for annulment was under the age of 18 years at the time of the marriage and such marriage was not confirmed by her or him after attaining the age of 18.
- If the Court finds its own reason under the general equity jurisdiction of the Superior Court.
Complaint for Annulment in New Jersey
The law also prescribes certain other conditions that must be met in order to annul a marriage in New Jersey. You must fill out an official “Complaint for Annulment,” and either you or your spouse must be a legal resident domiciled in New Jersey for at least one year at the time that you file. You must effectively serve your spouse with the petition for annulment. To serve process effectively, an adult (other than yourself) must hand-deliver the complaint to your spouse. This person must then fill out an Affidavit of Service, which is then filed with the court.
What happens once you have served effective process, and meet all the conditions of an annulment? If your spouse consents, the judge will enter a decree of annulment. In some cases, you and your spouse will not have to appear in court. If there is a dispute, you will need to attend a hearing wherein you testify so the judge can determine whether or not an annulment is appropriate. For example, if you seek an annulment on grounds that you were intoxicated at the time of your wedding, and your spouse contests that fact, you will both need to attend a hearing so the judge can sort out the facts and get to the truth of the matter.
Once the judge issues your annulment, your marriage is void. Many people are concerned that any marital children will then be rendered illegitimate, however this is not the case. Just like with a traditional divorce, in an annulment, the court will issue an Order setting out the impact of the dissolution of your marriage on issues such as child support, alimony, and child custody.
Mendham Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Help Clients Understand Annulment
If you are considering divorce in New Jersey and want to explore all of your options, the experienced New Jersey divorce lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. can sit down with you and explain the consequences of divorce versus annulment. We can help you determine whether you are eligible for an annulment, and help you decide what is the best course of action for your personal situation. Call us at 908-575-9777 or contact us online today.