Divorce Lawyer in Somerset County, New Jersey
Some New Jersey couples who seek to end their marriages can choose annulment as an alternative to divorce. Although both annulment and divorce end the marriage, there are several ways in which annulment is different from divorce. Most importantly, rather than formally recognizing that a marriage existed and then ended, annulment treats the marriage as if it never existed in the first place. As a result of this special treatment, there is no property division when an annulment occurs.
In New Jersey, a limited number of scenarios qualify a marriage for annulment
- Fraud or Lies: Either party lied to or committed fraud against the other to induce the marriage. This includes lies or misstatements regarding a desire, or lack thereof, to have children, drug and alcohol addiction, or religious beliefs.
- Duress: The marriage is agreed to and occurs only as a result of threats.
- Impotence: Either party suffers from incurable impotence at the time of the marriage.
- Bigamy: Either party was already married to someone else at the time of the marriage.
- Incapacity: Either party was mentally incompetent or intoxicated at the time of the marriage, and, as a result, did not understand that he or she was agreeing to marriage.
- Nonage: Either party was under the age of 18 at the time of the marriage.
- Incest: The married individuals are closely related by blood.
Although all of these situations could serve as the grounds for an annulment, it is more likely to be granted in marriages of short duration. This is because it is easier to treat a short marriage as if it never existed than it would be to do to the same with a longer one.
There are several benefits for a couple seeking an annulment as an alternative to divorce. First, there is no property division. In general, both parties retain rights to their own property following an annulment. Contractual property division may be necessary, however, if, for instance, the couple jointly own a home. Courts may also choose to award alimony and child support if necessary or appropriate. In addition to preserving each party’s property rights, an annulment may provide other benefits as well, such as reduced religious and social stigma.
Annulments in New Jersey can take two different paths. If both spouses agree to the annulment, a judge is likely to enter an “order of annulment,” which immediately dissolves the marriage. If, however, one spouse does not agree, a special hearing may be necessary. During an annulment hearing, both spouses have the opportunity to explain why they are either in favor of or against the annulment. Following this proceeding, a judge will determine whether or not an annulment is appropriate.
If you are considering ending your marriage, you may want to consider an annulment instead of a divorce. Because ending a marriage is an important decision with significant legal implications, it is important to have knowledgeable legal guidance when considering annulment or divorce. An experienced family law attorney can assist you in the process, helping to ensure that you choose the path that is best for you and preserve your legal rights.