What is an Annulment?
An annulment is a finding by a court that a marriage is void (invalid), as
though it had never occurred.
What are the Grounds for an Annulment?
Either spouse can
bring an action to annul a marriage on any of the following grounds:
spouse is incurably incapable of having sexual intercourse
spouse had not reached the age of legal consent (18) at the time of the
marriage (a marriage between persons under 18 may be annulled, at the
discretion of the court, if one of the spouses is still under 18 and wants
an annulment. If the underage
spouse chose to live with the other spouse after turning 18, and later seeks
an annulment, it won’t be granted.)
insanity for at least five years after the marriage
spouse could not give actual consent to the marriage (could not understand
the nature, effect, and consequences of marriage) as a result of some mental
incapacity or deficiency.
spouse consented to the marriage as a result of the force or duress of the other
spouse’s consent was obtained by fraud (the fraud must go to the essence
of the marriage contract, and only the injured spouse can obtain the
What is a Declaration of Nullity of a Void Marriage?
Unlike an annulment, where the marriage can only be voided through an action
for annulment, certain marriages are automatically void (not recognized),
including the following:
- incestuous marriages - those between ancestor
and descendant, brother and sister, uncle and niece, or aunt and nephew
- bigamous marriages - those between an unmarried spouse
and someone who is already married (whose marriage was not terminated or
- any marriage that was not properly solemnized
(e.g., as a result of some defect in the marriage ceremony).
Even though a void marriage is already null, New York courts
allow spouses in a void marriage to bring a formal action - called an “action
to declare the nullity of a void marriage.” Through these actions, spouses in a
void marriage may obtain a formal declaration that their marriage is void and
seek to enforce certain rights.
What Rights do I Have if my Marriage is Void?
The effect of a declaration of the nullity of a void marriage is to dissolve
the marriage as a matter of public record, but it also allows the children of
the marriage to be legitimized.
In addition, the court may make the same types of orders it
makes in a divorce proceeding, including but not limited to the following:
- awarding alimony (also called maintenance)
- dividing marital property via equitable distribution
- determining separate property claims
- setting the proper amount of child support
- making arrangements for child custody and visitation,
- awarding attorney’s fees, if appropriate.
Is There a Difference Between an Annulment, a Divorce, and a
Declaration of the Nullity of a Void Marriage?
As a practical matter, no. In any of these actions, the marriage is legally
dissolved as a matter of public record, and the court can award the same
Is it Difficult to get an Annulment or Declaration of Nullity?
Yes. These types of actions require a higher degree of proof and corroborative
evidence from other witnesses.
See New York Divorce & Family Laws for information on divorce and related issues.
For the legal jargon, research NY Dom. Rel., Ch. 14, Art. 9 § § 140 and 141.