Getting an Annulment in New Jersey
Couples who are planning to separate should consider their options. One option, annulment, is not often well understood. Like a divorce, an annulment legally dissolves a marriage. However, an annulment treats the marriage as if it never happened, whereas a divorce recognizes the legitimacy of the marriage. In New Jersey, couples can get an annulment in limited circumstances.
Grounds for Annulment in New Jersey
Some people wrongly believe that you can only get an annulment if you have a short marriage that was never consummated. The law is a little more complicated. Under New Jersey law, you can get an annulment in the following circumstances:
* Your spouse was already married to someone else (bigamy)
* You and your spouse are too closely related so the marriage is void
* One spouse was too young to marry
* You married when either spouse was under 18 and, since turning 18, have not had sexual relations
* Either spouse lacked the mental capacity to get married
* You married only because of duress or threats
* One spouse has incurable impotence, which the other did not know about at the time of marriage
* You married only because of lies or fraud
If you do not meet one of the above situations, then you cannot get an annulment. To start the process, you should file a Complaint for Annulment in the appropriate court. Your attorney will help you gather the appropriate evidence to support your complaint.
Grounds for Divorce in New Jersey
Divorce has fewer requirements than an annulment in New Jersey. You can choose to assign fault or get a no-fault divorce for “irreconcilable differences.” Some of the fault options include:
* Desertion for at least 12 months
* Extreme cruelty, which can involve physical, mental, or emotional abuse
* Habitual drunkenness
If you choose to divorce because of irreconcilable differences, then those differences must have persisted for at least six months. As a practical matter, it will be difficult for anyone to challenge when you think the marriage broke down.
Reasons to Seek an Annulment
Most separating couples will file for divorce and never consider an annulment. However, in a couple situations, an annulment might be preferable (if you can obtain one).
For example, some clients want an annulment for religious reasons. Their religion frowns on divorce, and they might face embarrassment or ostracism if they get divorced. Of course, a civil annulment is not the same as a religious annulment, which can only be given by an appropriate religious authority. Nevertheless, a civil annulment is usually an important first step.
Second, some clients lost important benefits when they married or were remarried. By seeking an annulment, they might be able to gain access to these important benefits again because the marriage will legally disappear.
Do not worry that getting an annulment will make your children somehow “illegitimate.” The man who fathered the children will still be the legal father unless a court finds that someone else is really the father.
Get Help from a New Jersey Divorce Lawyer
Elena K. Weitz, Esq., is an experienced divorce and family law attorney and is here to meet with you. She understands the stresses involved with any divorce and will strive to make things as uncomplicated as possible. Contact her for a consultation today.