When a marriage dissolves, the union usually end in divorce. This is not always the case, though. A legal separation would be one alternative to divorce. In other instances, a marriage could end through an annulment, a completely different legal dissolution than a divorce or a legal separation. With a divorce, a marriage no longer legally exists. With an annulment, the marriage never existed. The courts render the marriage “null and void.” This means the marriage never existed in the first place. With a divorce, the dissolved marriage did previously exist since it was a valid union. Divorce decrees simply state both spouses cease to be married to one another.
The egregious conduct of a spouse could legally allow a spouse to go beyond filing for divorce and seek the erasure of the marriage through an annulment. A resident of Staten Island concerned about filing for an annulment might be confused over how the process actually works. Questions about the differences between an annulment and a divorce likely exist as well. Direct questions about a spouse’s particular situation should be directed to a qualified lawyer. General answers about annulments in New York can be found in the state’s civil code.
Annulments and Divorce: The Legal Bar is High
Annulments are not as common as divorces due to the very limited circumstances in which an annulment may be approved by the courts. In the state of New York, certain circumstances must be in place for an annulment decision to be rendered. Common reasons for divorce such as adultery, mental or physical cruelty and marital breakdown would not be sufficient to receive an order of annulment. Fraud, however, could constitute the basis for an annulment.
If a spouse turns out to be someone who has been living under an assumed identity, he/she committed fraud when entering into the marriage. Granted, incidents in which someone married under a false identity, are not exactly common. The same could be said of someone who remarries without ever dissolving the original marriage or marriages. Regardless, both scenarios open the legal doors for a judgment of annulment.
Other grounds for an annulment could be forcing someone into a marriage or marrying an underage person. While no statute of limitations exists for an annulment, if certain circumstances change, seeking an annulment won’t be possible. For example, if someone who is underage marries, an annulment becomes impossible when the individual reaches legal age and is still cohabitating with the spouse.
Under New York law, various other circumstances may allow for a credible filing of an annulment. Consulting with an attorney remains a reliable means to determine whether seeking an annulment makes legal sense.
Issues Beyond the Annulment
An annulment may completely erase the marriage, this doesn’t mean both parties can fully walk away from the past even after the nullification. Based on the circumstances, completely walking away from any association with one another might not even be possible. Several serious issues that won’t go away even when a marriage has been voided. Issues surrounding child custody, alimony and the division of assets amassed jointly during the marriage may need to be sorted out.
Only a qualified attorney would be able to effectively address matters such as these. Meeting with an attorney to discuss the full scope of seeking an annulment entails discussing the approach to be taken in court regarding both parties’ responsibilities in the aftermath of the decree.