Couples in New Jersey who want to end their marriage may have the option to get an annulment. An annulment is slightly different than a divorce in that it treats the marriage like it never existed. There are many financial, social, and religious reasons why people get an annulment. However, it is not an option for every couple.
There are strict grounds for annulment in New Jersey, which is why divorce is much more common. Couples who qualify for an annulment can end their marriage quickly and permanently.
Why Get an Annulment?
An annulment is a court procedure that ends a marriage. If an annulment is granted, the marriage is voided. People have their marriage annulled for a variety of reasons. To start, the process is much shorter and less complicated than divorce. This is ideal for short marriages where parties are not concerned about dividing marital assets or seeking alimony.
Other people choose annulment because they feel there is less of a stigma than divorce. Religious factors also play a part for some couples. In some religions, a person cannot remarry in the church if they have been divorced. Reversing the marriage solves this problem.
What are the Grounds for Annulment in New Jersey?
It is more challenging to get an annulment in New Jersey compared to a divorce. The person seeking annulment must submit a burden of proof of any of the following circumstances.
Age: In the United States, the age of consent is 18 years old. Technically, anyone who marries before they turn 18 years old is not of the age of consent, so their union is not legally binding.
Duress: A marriage under duress means one person threatened the other person with physical harm if they did not marry. In some cases, such threats become violent.
Fraud: A marriage can be annulled on the grounds of fraud if one party misrepresented themselves in a significant way that somehow impacts the union. It is the most common reason for annulments in the United States. Examples of marital fraud include lies about financial status, religion, paternity, immigration status, and drug addictions.
Incapacitation: Incapacitation means one or both parties was under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol at the time of the marriage and did not fully grasp what they were doing. Incapacitation can also refer to someone with a mental condition who did not understand that they got married.
Polygamy: Polygamy is also illegal. If one person is married at the time and does not disclose this before marrying a new partner, the marriage can be annulled.
Withholding information: Withhold any pertinent information that can impact the marriage is grounds for annulment, such as a criminal past, employment status, impotence, or infertility.
What are the Differences Between Divorce and Annulment?
There are a few significant differences between divorce and annulment. Divorce means the marriage happened, but it is over. Annulment means it did not happen, and both parties are single in the eyes of the law.
Time: Generally, the divorce process is much longer and more involved than an annulment. In most cases, couples are only married a short time before seeking an annulment, so there are fewer legal and financial issues to sort out. Typically, these couples have not had children or had time to acquire significant marital assets, so there is less work to do to at the end of the union.
Division of Assets: If an annulled marriage does involve joint assets, they are not divided according to the principle of equitable distribution as they are in divorce. Instead, property division happens according to contract law and who has the title of the house, vehicle, among other items. Assets that are not titled are divided up equally.
Grounds for Ending the Marriage: As far as reasons for ending the union, the grounds for annulment are fairly clear in New Jersey. There are also grounds for fault in the state as well, such as infidelity, extreme cruelty, and imprisonment.
With annulment, the grounds for dissolving the marriage have more to do with who both parties were at the time they got married. An annulment may be the best and quickest solution for someone who wants out of a marriage.
How are Children Affected?
There is a common misconception that children born during a marriage that is annulled somehow become illegitimate, but that is simply not the case. Children remain legitimate after their parents have their marriage annulled. If children are involved, the judge can make determinations about child support, child custody, and alimony if it applies during the annulment hearing.
Civil Annulment and Religious Annulment
Another important distinction to make is the difference between a civil annulment and a religious annulment. Annulments provided by the church are strictly religious in nature and have no bearing on a person’s marital status under the law. Someone who receives a religious annulment must take the proper legal steps to officially end their marriage in New Jersey.
How Do I Get My Marriage Annulled in New Jersey?
Someone seeking to get out of a marriage should always consult a lawyer to start the process. They can explain all of the available options and help the client determine if annulment or divorce makes the most sense financially and legally.
Anyone who wants to have a marriage annulled in New Jersey must be a resident of the state at the time of the filing. The next step after a consultation with a lawyer is to complete and file a Complaint for Annulment. The person filing the complaint provides information about themselves, their spouse, and why they are seeking an annulment. The complaint must be served to the other spouse by a third-party adult, other than the petitioner. The person serving the other party filles out an Affidavit of Service, confirming they hand-delivered the document to the other spouse.
If that spouse agrees to the annulment, it is declared official without a hearing. If not, both spouses attend a hearing and present their evidence. From there, the judge decides if an annulment is appropriate. If that occurs, both spouses receive a Judgement of Nullity, effectively saying the marriage never happened.
While annulments are less common than traditional divorce in New Jersey, they are an important tool for certain spouses. They allow individuals to walk away and start a new chapter without looking back. Since the process depends on meeting certain grounds for annulment in New Jersey, it is essential to hire a skilled lawyer to start the process.
Morristown Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Help Clients Seeking Annulment in New Jersey
It is devasting to find out the person you married is not who they claimed to be. A Morristown divorce lawyer at Lyons & Associates, P.C. can advocate on your behalf and use every legal tool available to help justify an annulment. Call us at 908-575-9777 or contact us online for an initial consultation. We are located in Morristown and Somerville, New Jersey, and we proudly assist clients throughout Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.