When seeking to legally end a marriage, couples have two options: divorce or annulment. Annulment, defined in Domestic Relations Law §140, is a legal process that cancels the marriage between spouses. Under the law, an annulment legally declares that the marriage never technically existed and is not valid.
An annulment can be initiated by either spouse. The spouse that initiates the annulment must have grounds to do so and, if the grounds are proven, the court will consider the marriage null and void. The grounds for annulment are different from a divorce. New York State recognizes the following five grounds for annulment:
- Underage marriage – One or both spouses were under the age of 18 at the time of the marriage.
- Mental incapacity – One or both spouses were not able to consent to the marital relationship due to mental incapacity.
- Inability to consummate the marriage – Either party to the marriage was “incurably unable to have sexual intercourse at the time of the marriage.
- Forced consent – One or both spouses gave consent to the marriage under duress, coercion or fraud.
- Mental illness – Either party was “incurably insane” for five (5) years at the time of the marriage.
An annulment in New York requires a trial before a judge as it requires at least one ground to be proven in court. The process requires the filing of paperwork as well as evidence including documents and/or witnesses that can support the spouse’s claim for annulment.
Although an annulment may result in a voided marriage, it has no effect on the legitimacy of children born during the time the spouses were married. Additionally, an annulment does not affect child support or child custody and instead establishes a presumption of paternity. For this reason, it is important that parents who are seeking an annulment from their spouse also consult an experienced New York family law attorney that can protect their legal rights in child custody, visitation and support matters.
Navigating the complex legalities surrounding an annulment can be difficult. The experienced Long Island divorce attorneys at Larry McCord & Associates, LLC can guide you through the annulment process or divorce process. Please contact Larry McCord and Associates, LLC at (631) 643-3084 to learn more about the firm’s services.