Unlike a divorce, which dissolves a legal marriage, an annulment recognizes that a valid marriage never existed. When a couple gets divorced, for some there is a negative stigma in certain religious or social circles. Financial burdens, divorce proceedings, and other responsibilities are also factors you can avoid if you move forward with an annulment instead of a divorce. However, unlike a divorce which can be granted based on irreconcilable differences, an annulment can only be sought in very limited circumstances.
Civil annulments, which we will discuss today, are different from religious annulments. Civil annulments are legal proceedings that if granted will declare an individual as having a marital status of “single” as opposed to “divorced.”
Religious annulments on the other hand can only be granted by religious institutions such as a church or clergy. Religious annulments have no legal effect on an individual’s marital status and do not hold legal weight.
Getting an Annulment in New Jersey
In the state of New Jersey, a couple may be able to seek an annulment if they meet certain conditions. Let’s go over what these conditions are.
An Underage Marriage
The state of New Jersey does not recognize that individuals under the age of 18 have the legal right to consent to marriage. Because of this, if a couple was married before they turned 18, they can move forward with an annulment.
If a marriage took place under duress, it can fall under the grounds of an annulment. A marriage under duress is one that took place through force, threats, or violence. For example, if a woman is forced into a marriage with threats or acts of violence, then she will have grounds to move forward with an annulment.
Bigamy is the notion of an individual entering a marriage when they already have a living spouse they are currently married to. If bigamy plays a role in a marriage, that marriage can be annulled under these grounds. The spouse who is filing for an annulment has to prove that their partner was already involved in another marriage and that the marriage they are trying to annul occurred while their partner was still married.
If a marriage occurred when the individuals were incapacitated, they may be able to move forward with an annulment. Incapacitated individuals lack the mental capacity to give consent to a marriage. For example, if a couple gets intoxicated and goes on a whim, engaging in a quick marriage ceremony, they can have the marriage annulled because the duo did not fully understand the consequences of their actions.
If an individual enters a marriage and they are not made aware of their spouse’s impotence or inability to engage in sexual relations, then they may move forward with an annulment. A situation in which a female is unable to bear children and does not disclose this information to her husband can also fall under this category for an annulment.
Incest is the notion that two individuals who are closely related enter into a sexual relationship. If two individuals who are blood-related enter into a marriage, then they might be able to file for an annulment under these grounds if they are too closely related under New Jersey law.
A marriage that was built on fraudulent grounds is eligible for annulment in New Jersey. A marriage built on fraudulent grounds can take several forms, with common reasons including the following:
- One spouse conceals or lies about drug and alcohol addictions.
- One spouse lies about their intentions of having children and starting a family.
- The marriage occurs in order to get one partner legal residency in the country.
- A woman lies to her spouse about a current pregnancy or if an individual other than her spouse fathered the child.
- A spouse lies or misrepresents their religious beliefs, especially if religion is a determining factor for the other spouse.
There are many benefits to proceeding with an annulment if you are in a marriage that you want to end and qualify for an annulment. Conversely, it is often better to go through the formal divorce process instead, even if you could get the marriage annulled. Having an experienced legal representative on your side can help you understand your options and assist you accordingly. At Herbert & Weiss, our experienced attorneys can help you navigate what can be an emotionally draining process. Reach out to our law offices today to get the guidance and representation you deserve.