An annulment in New York requires a trial and hearing before a judge. Unlike a divorce, which can be granted upon written or sworn testimony without a trial, an annulment will require at least one of the grounds to be proven in court. This will require paperwork to be filed with the court and you to bring evidence including documents and/or witnesses that can support your claim for annulment.
In contrast to an action for divorce, grounds for an annulment is always based on something that pre-dates the marriage stopping the marriage from realization under the law. An annulment is a legal proceeding that goes further by declaring a marriage invalid or void through a court order. It’s as if the marriage never happened. Some individuals may want an annulment in order to avoid any stigma they believe is associated with divorce. This article covers only civil annulments, not religious annulments, which can only be granted by a church or clergy and have no legal effect on martial status. Typically, grounds for an annulment result from marriages that are considered void or voidable. The vital difference to understand between an annulment and a divorce is that the divorce ends an existing, valid marriage, where an annulment declares that what was believed to be a marriage was never actually a marriage at all. In the eyes of the law, the effect of an annulment is that your marriage would be considered void, as if you were never married.
There are a number of reasons why you can ask a New York court to declare your marriage void. You will have to present evidence proving one of the reasons so that the court can decide whether an annulment is appropriate or not. Reasons for granting an annulment are:
- Bigamy, meaning one spouse is already married to someone else at the time of the second marriage
- The spouses are too closely related by blood
- One of the parties is under the age of consent (meaning not legally recognized as an adult yet). An action to annul a marriage on this ground may be maintained by the under-age party, or by that party’s parents or guardian. If the under-age party has since attained the age of consent and freely cohabited with the other party as spouse, the marriage can no longer be annulled.
- One of the parties is a mentally retarded or mentally ill person and does not have the capacity to consent
- One of the parties is incurably incapable of having sexual intercourse
- One of the parties has had an incurable mental illness for five years
- Either spouse’s consent was obtained by fraud or duress