What is an Annulment in NJ?
An annulment is a legal procedure that declares a marriage null and void, meaning that the marriage is legally considered to have never existed. Unlike divorce, where a marriage is ended, annulment makes it as if the marriage never occurred.
It is essential to note that annulment is not the same as divorce in NJ. In divorce, the couple’s legal relationship is terminated, but in annulment, the marriage is considered invalid from the start.
It is also important to note that annulment is not available to everyone. Only specific circumstances allow a marriage to be annulled.
What Are The Grounds For An Annulment in NJ?
To obtain an annulment in NJ, one must have grounds for the annulment. Grounds refer to specific circumstances or reasons that allow a marriage to be annulled. In NJ, there are limited grounds for annulment. They include:
1. Fraud or Duress
One of the most common grounds for annulment is fraud or duress.
Fraud refers to a situation where one of the parties misled the other party before the marriage. For example, if one party claimed to be wealthy when they were not, this could be considered fraud. Other examples of fraud include hiding a criminal history, lying about one’s education or job, or concealing a pre-existing medical condition.
Duress refers to a situation where one party was forced into the marriage against their will. This could include threats of violence or blackmail. Duress could also refer to a situation where one party was under severe emotional or psychological pressure to enter into the marriage.
To obtain an annulment based on fraud or duress, the party seeking the annulment must prove that the fraud or duress existed at the time of the marriage. They must also show that the fraud or duress was so significant that it influenced their decision to marry. If the court determines that the fraud or duress is sufficient, the marriage will be considered voidable from the beginning.
It’s important to note that fraud or duress must be proven in court, and it can be challenging to do so. It’s important to have evidence to support your claim, such as emails, text messages, or witness statements.
Bigamy is another ground for annulment in NJ. This refers to a situation where one of the parties is already married at the time of the second marriage. In this case, the second marriage is void from the beginning.
Consanguinity refers to a situation where the parties to the marriage are too closely related. For example, a marriage between siblings, parents, or grandparents and grandchildren is not valid in NJ and can be annulled.
It’s important to note that consanguinity laws vary by state, and what is considered too closely related in one state may not be in another. If you believe that you’re related to your spouse in a way that is prohibited by law, it’s essential to speak with an experienced divorce attorney who can help you understand your legal options and guide you through the process of obtaining an annulment based on consanguinity. An attorney can also help you determine whether the relationship is prohibited by law in NJ.
4. Mental Incapacity
If one of the parties to the marriage was mentally incapacitated at the time of the marriage, the marriage can be annulled.
Mental incapacity is a legal term that refers to a person’s inability to understand the nature and effect of the marriage contract. It means that the person lacks the mental capacity to consent to the marriage.
To obtain an annulment based on mental incapacity, the party seeking the annulment must show that the other party was mentally incapacitated at the time of the marriage. The incapacity must be such that the party lacked the ability to understand the nature and effect of the marriage contract. Examples of mental incapacity may include a person with a severe mental illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, or a person who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the marriage.
It is essential to note that mental incapacity is different from being of unsound mind. A person who is of unsound mind may not have the ability to make decisions about their property, finances, or health care. However, this does not necessarily mean that they lack the mental capacity to consent to marriage. Mental incapacity for purposes of annulment refers specifically to the inability to understand the nature and effect of the marriage contract.
If mental incapacity is established, the marriage is voidable from the beginning. This means that the marriage is considered to be invalid from the outset, and it is as if the marriage never occurred. The parties will not have any legal rights or obligations arising from the marriage, such as property division, alimony, or child support.
5. Physical Incapacity
Physical incapacity refers to a situation where one of the parties is physically incapable of consummating the marriage. The physical incapacity must exist at the time of the marriage, and the other party must not have been aware of the incapacity.
To obtain an annulment based on physical incapacity, the party seeking the annulment must prove that the incapacity existed at the time of the marriage, and the other party was not aware of it. The physical incapacity must be permanent and incurable, and the party must have been unaware of it at the time of the marriage.
It’s important to note that physical incapacity is not the same as sexual dysfunction. Sexual dysfunction refers to a situation where a person experiences difficulty or inability to engage in sexual activity, but this does not necessarily mean that they are physically incapable of consummating the marriage.
Understand that physical incapacity is a difficult ground to prove, and it requires expert medical evidence to support the claim. If you believe that you or your spouse is physically incapable of consummating the marriage, it’s essential to seek the assistance of an experienced divorce attorney who can help you understand your legal options and guide you through the process of obtaining an annulment.
In NJ, individuals must be 18 years of age to consent to marriage. A marriage that occurs before one spouse is 18 can potentially expand be annulled.
The Process of Obtaining an Annulment in NJ
Obtaining an annulment in NJ involves following specific procedures. The process for obtaining an annulment is similar to that of a divorce. However, there are some key differences.
Filing a Complaint
The first step in obtaining an annulment is filing a complaint with the court. The complaint must include the grounds for the annulment, as well as any other relevant information.
Serving the Complaint
Once the complaint has been filed, the other party must be served with a copy of the complaint. This is usually done by a process server or a law enforcement officer.
The other party then has the opportunity to respond to the complaint. They can either agree to the annulment or contest it.
If the other party contests the annulment, the parties will enter the discovery phase of the annulment process. This phase involves both parties exchanging information about the marriage, such as financial documents and other relevant evidence.
If the other party does not contest the annulment, or if the parties reach a settlement agreement, the case will proceed to a court hearing. The judge will hear arguments from both parties and then decide whether to grant the annulment.
If the judge grants the annulment, a final judgment will be issued. This judgment will declare the marriage null and void, as if it never happened.
How Long Does It Take To Get an Annulment?
Much like a divorce, this depends on whether your spouse fights the annulment, and if there is a dispute over any of the issues. Because an annulment will treat the marriage as though it never happened, there will be no marital property division between the two spouses. It is worth noting though, that you still may be able to divide property between the two of you based on traditional contract law.
If there are no issues in dispute for the annulment, it can be granted in a matter of just a few months.