How to Get an Annulment in New York

By Teo Spengler

An annulment, like a divorce, ends a marriage. Unlike a divorce, however, it voids the union. A judicial annulment is essentially a court declaration that a valid marriage between the parties never existed. In New York, like most states, statutes authorize annulment under very limited circumstances, with different rules depending on whether the marriage is considered "void" or "voidable." Courts require a higher degree of proof for the elements of an annulment than is required for a divorce.

An annulment, like a divorce, ends a marriage. Unlike a divorce, however, it voids the union. A judicial annulment is essentially a court declaration that a valid marriage between the parties never existed. In New York, like most states, statutes authorize annulment under very limited circumstances, with different rules depending on whether the marriage is considered "void" or "voidable." Courts require a higher degree of proof for the elements of an annulment than is required for a divorce.

Void Marriages

Under New York law, courts annul marriages considered "void ad ignition," or void from the beginning. In other words, the marriage was not considered legal to begin with. If the person solemnizing your marriage had no right to do so under New York law, marriage did not occur in the eyes of the state and the "marriage" is void. New York also voids incestuous marriages, including those between a parent and child, siblings or close blood relations, such as between a niece and an uncle. Similarly, if you or your spouse were already married to someone else at the time of your marriage, your union is void. Void marriages can never be legitimized regardless of the desires of the couple.

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Age or Mental Disability

New York courts also annul marriages considered "voidable." Unlike void marriages, voidable marriages are deemed valid unless and until annulled. If you were underage when you married, you can annul the union by bringing an action for annulment before your 18th birthday. "Underage" in New York means under the age of 14 or between ages 14 and 18 without proper parental or court consent. A marriage may also be voided if mental disability rendered one party incapable of understanding what she was doing or if either spouse develops an incurable mental illness that lasts for five years or more.

Fraud or Duress

For a marriage to be valid, both parties must have consented to it of their own free will. New York courts void marriages resulting from force, duress or fraud. If a party is forced into marriage with threats or in reliance on a material representation that was fraudulent, the court will likely find a lack of consent. Special time limits apply to void a marriage for fraud. The defrauded party must bring an action for annulment within five years of discovering the fraud. Cohabiting after discovery of duress or fraud will ratify a marriage that would otherwise be voidable.

Procedures

Filing for annulment in New York is easier if the matter is uncontested. If your spouse agrees with your decision to seek an annulment, you may be able to represent yourself before the court. Obtain the required forms and instructions from a court clerk in New York or from a reputable online legal document provider. If your spouse opposes the petition for annulment, consider hiring an attorney to represent you.

Effect of Annulment

If a New York court agrees with your argument and voids your marriage, it issues a judgment to that effect. Despite the fact that an annulment "erases" the marriage, both the marriage and annulment remain a matter of public record. The declaration of annulment dissolves the marriage, but it legitimizes any children of that marriage. The court decision also spells out child support and custody rulings as well as asset division between the parties.

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Annulment Requirements

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Annulment Requirements for Florida

In Florida, a marriage may be terminated by divorce or annulment. An annulment is basically a decree that a marriage is void, or that a legal marriage never actually took place. To annul your marriage, you need to meet certain specific criteria recognized by Florida courts. However, Florida courts will also recognize a request for an annulment if you and your spouse never lived together as husband and wife or consummated your marriage.

Tennessee Laws on Annulments

Both a divorce and an annulment result in the dissolution of a marriage in Tennessee, but an annulment is a very specific form of terminating a marriage. You can have a marriage annulled in Tennessee if you prove the marriage is void or voidable, meaning the marriage is either against public policy or one of the spouses is a "victim" tricked into the marriage.

Reasons an Annulment Will Be Approved

Annulment isn't a quick and easy fix to a bad marriage, although it's sometimes rumored to be. Much like fault-based divorces, you must prove certain grounds to the court before it will grant your request. These are legally acceptable reasons why your marriage can't or shouldn't continue. With all states now recognizing no-fault divorces -- where you don't have to prove wrongdoing on the part of your spouse -- getting the court to grant you an annulment is usually the more difficult process.

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