While you may have heard of annulment as a way to end a marriage, many people aren’t familiar with how annulment works and its requirements. An annulment is a legal process that declares a marriage null and void, essentially stating that the marriage was never valid from the beginning. When granted, the marriage is treated as if it never existed in the eyes of the law. The grounds for annulment are much more limited than for divorce. There are only six situations where annulment is permitted:
Where a prior marriage was not dissolved and the spouse was still living when a second marriage occurred, the second marriage is invalid as bigamous and can be annulled.
Under the age of consent
If one or both parties were under the age of legal consent at the time of marriage, the party who was underage at the time may annul the marriage. However, if the underage spouse continues to live with the spouse after turning 18, the marriage cannot be annulled. Note that a parent or guardian of the underage spouse can also bring an action for annulment.
Mental illness or developmental disability
If a party suffers from mental illness or a developmental disability at the time of the marriage, a relative of the party with mental illness or developmental disability can seek annulment. The person with the mental illness can also annul the marriage at any time after the restoration of a sound mind unless the parties continue to live as spouses after the restoration of a sound mind. The other party to the marriage can seek an annulment if he or she did not know of the mental illness at the time of the marriage.
Where a party is physically incapable of entering into the marriage state and the incapacity continues and is incurable, the other spouse can seek an annulment. The party with the incapacity can also annul the marriage if he or she was unaware of the incapacity at the time of marriage, or if aware, did not know it was incurable. Note that the action must be commenced within five years of marriage.
Consent obtained by force, duress or fraud
The injured party can annul the marriage at any time if consent was obtained by force or duress, unless before seeking an annulment, it appears the parties voluntarily cohabited as spouses.
In the case of fraud, the action must be brought within the statute of limitations except if it appears that, at any time before filing for annulment, the parties voluntarily cohabited as spouses, with full knowledge of the facts constituting the fraud. The statute of limitations for fraud is four years from the date the party learns of the fraud.
Incurable mental illness for five years
Either party may bring an action to annul the marriage if one of them has been incurably mentally ill for five years or more.
If a party can show one of the grounds above, an annulment can be granted by following the proper procedures under New York law. Note that in an annulment, the same rules apply to the division of marital property, spousal support, child support and child custody as exists in a divorce case.
If you are considering annulment, contact us for a consultation today.