Like a divorce, an annulment is a court procedure that dissolves, or ends, a marriage. An annulment is different from a divorce in that an annulment treats the marriage like it never happened. Some people still think divorce carries a stigma, so they would rather have their marriage annulled than get a divorce. A "civil annulment," which is discussed here, should not be confused with a "religious annulment," which can only be granted by a church or clergy and has no legal effect on your marital status as far as the state is concerned.
There are limited reasons, or grounds, for getting an annulment in New Jersey. You can get an annulment in New Jersey for any of the following grounds:
In order to obtain an annulment in New Jersey, you or your spouse must be a resident of New Jersey at the time you file. The form you have to fill out and file is called a “Complaint for Annulment.” In your complaint, you will have to provide information about yourself, your spouse, your children, your marriage, and your grounds for an annulment. You will have to have your spouse “served” with the petition. This means that an adult, other than you, has to hand-deliver the complaint to your spouse. Whoever serves your spouse has to fill out an Affidavit of Service, which you must then file with the court.
If your spouse agrees to the annulment, the judge will enter a decree of annulment without a hearing. If your spouse does not agree to the annulment, the judge will hold a hearing. In a hearing, both you and your spouse will have to testify and present other evidence to the judge so that the judge can determine whether an annulment is appropriate.
If the judge decides to annul your marriage, you will receive a Judgment of Nullity.
Once the judge issues an annulment, your marriage is immediately considered void, as if you were never married.
If you and your spouse had children together, your children are still considered “legitimate” after an annulment. This means that the father continues to be the father unless it’s proven that someone else is the father.
In an annulment proceeding, the judge can make decisions about child custody and child support and can also award alimony, if appropriate. However, the judge can’t enter orders about the “equitable distribution of property” in an annulment proceeding. Instead, the method for distributing property in annulment proceedings depends on title to the property. Things that are titled to you remain yours; things titled to your spouse remain your spouse’s. If you and your spouse hold joint title to any property, it is divided equally.
The full text of the law governing annulments in New Jersey can be found at NJ Stat. Ann. §2A:34-1.