How Does an Annulment Work in New Jersey when Compared to a Divorce?
When a married couple gets divorced, their marriage is dismantled. This means that the court, recognizing the couple’s legal union and their rights, works to break down the couple’s property according to equitable distribution rules and create a settlement that provides both partners with a fair share of their marital property. In contrast, an annulment is issued when the court recognizes that a couple never had a legal marriage to begin with. A divorce legally ends a marriage; an annulment invalidates it.
Not every couple can get an annulment. To qualify for an annulment in New Jersey, you must be able to prove that your marriage is invalid according to New Jersey’s matrimonial laws. If you are unsure about the validity of your marriage, speak with an experienced divorce attorney.
What Makes a Marriage Invalid?
Bigamy. If one partner is already married, any subsequent marriages are not valid until he or she divorces the first spouse;
Fraud. If one or both parties entered the marriage under a misconception about the other’s true identity, past, or any other concealed fact, the defrauded partner may seek an annulment;
Lack of consent. If either partner entered the marriage through coercion or threat of harm, he or she may seek an annulment;
Age. If one or both partners was under sixteen years old or under eighteen years old without parental permission when the marriage was performed, the marriage may be annulled;
Incest. If the partners are biologically related, their marriage is not valid.
Seeking an Annulment
If you feel your marriage is not valid and you want to file for an annulment, you need to file a Complaint for Annulment with the Superior Court of the county where you reside. In this complaint, you must describe how your marriage is in violation of New Jersey law, citing one of the factors listed above.
Your spouse must be served with the complaint. The individual who serves him or her the paperwork must file an Affidavit of Service with the court. If your spouse agrees to the annulment, you do not need a hearing to end your marriage. A judge can simply nullify the marriage and you can both leave the relationship without any further obligations. If your spouse does not consent to the annulment, you will need to argue your case to the judge during a hearing. If the judge finds your marriage to be invalid, he or she can nullify it through a Judgment of Nullity.
When a couple’s marriage is annulled, each partner retains the property he or she owned upon entering the marriage. If there is joint property, such as a home, the court divides it equally among the couple. If the couple has children, the court must arrange a child custody and support agreement for them.
Work with a New Jersey Divorce Attorney
Even if your marriage qualifies for an annulment rather than a divorce, it is in your best interest to work with an attorney who has experience in New Jersey divorce and family law. Contact The Law Office of Eric B. Hannum Esq., LLC. today to schedule your consultation with us. We serve clients in Ocean, Burlington, Mercer, Middlesex, and Monmouth counties.