How does an annulment differ from a divorce?
Like a divorce, an annulment is a court proceeding that ends a marriage. However, unlike a divorce, an annulment treats a marriage as though it never happened. Some people want an annulment in order to avoid what they consider the stigma of divorce. Other people prefer an annulment for religious reasons; it may be easier to get a religious annulment if you already have a civil annulment, and getting a divorce will preclude either a religious annulment or remarriage in the church. Most annulments take place after a very short marriage - a few weeks or months. An annulment is more likely to be granted when there are no children and assets or debts to divide.
Learn more about The Basics of Annulment in New Jersey.
What are the grounds for an annulment?
The specific requirements differ from state to state, but there are four grounds that are most common.
- misrepresentation or fraud. Some examples of fraud are that one spouse lied about the ability to have children, or entered into the marriage even though still married to someone else.
- concealment of an important piece of information. For example, an addiction to alcohol or drugs, conviction of a felony, or children from a prior relationship. If one spouse has failed to disclose important facts like these, the other may be able to get an annulment.
- a spouse’s refusal or inability to consummate the marriage. Basically, this means that one spouse refuses to or is physically unable to have sex with the other spouse.
- the existence of a significant misunderstanding. A common example is when one person wants children and the other does not.
Learn more about the Divorce Process in New Jersey.
What is the effect of an annulment?
An annulment may extinguish a person’s rights to property acquired during the marriage. The logic is that if the marriage is declared void, it’s as though the marriage never existed and therefore there are no marital assets to distribute.
What are some common examples?
A marriage can be annulled when the parties lacked the capacity to consent to the marriage when it was solemnized—for example, when they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A well-publicized example of this was Britney Spears’ annulment of her marriage on the basis that she was drunk when she impulsively got married in Las Vegas. A marriage also may be annulled if a party was under the age for marriage established by law. Most states require that both spouses be at least 18 years old to marry. Immigration is another context that can sometimes give rise to annulment request. A spouse who believes the marriage took place only for immigration purposes may seek an annulment based on fraud, in an effort to get the non-resident spouse deported.