Under certain circumstances, a married individual may be eligible to receive an annulment of their marriage. Similar to a divorce, an annulment will terminate the marriage. However, it has one important difference. If an annulment is granted, the court will treat the marriage as if it never existed. Therefore, parties who receive an annulment are not considered "divorced," nor will they be considered to have ever been married.
According to New Jersey Statutes, an annulment of a marriage can be granted for the following reasons:
(1) If either of the parties is married or a partner in a civil union. If you marry an individual that is already married, the marriage can be annulled.
(2) The parties are within the degrees prohibited by law. If you marry someone that is closer in relation to you than your first cousin, you will be entitled to receive an annulment.
(3) One of the parties was incurably impotent and the party seeking an annulment was ignorant of the impotency at the time of the marriage. A party who marries an individual who is impotent may receive an annulment if at the time of the marriage the party was unaware of their future spouse's condition. It is also worth noting that the impotent party may also seek an annulment as well.
(4) The parties, or either of them, lacked capacity to marry due to want of understanding due to:
a. A mental condition. Each party to a marriage must have the mental capacity to know that they are entering into a marriage and the responsibilities that come with the commitment. If an individual is mentally deficient or lacks capacity due to a psychological disorder, it is possible that the marriage could be annulled.
b. The influence of intoxicants or drugs. If either party has impaired their judgment due to the consumption of alcohol or drugs, the intoxicated party may seek an annulment.
c. Duress. If a party is forced to enter into a marriage against his/her will, that party will be eligible to receive an annulment.
d. Fraud as to the "essentials of marriage." Each marriage is assumed to have certain essential qualities to it, such as a desire for both parties to live together for the rest of their lives in a partnership. However, if one party enters into the marriage with the purpose to defraud his/her future spouse, the other spouse may be entitled to an annulment. Common instances of fraud as to the "essentials of marriage" include marrying to avoid immigration issues, a party's refusal to have children after that party agreed to have children before the marriage or the concealment of a drug addiction.
(5) If a party was under the age of 18 as the time of the marriage, unless the marriage was confirmed by that party after turning 18. If a party marries before reaching the age of 18 and seeks an annulment before reaching 18 years of age, he or she will be entitled to receive an annulment. If after turning 18, the once underage party may lose their right to acquire an annulment if he or she "confirms" or approves of the marriage. A party may "confirm" the marriage if he or she remains in the marriage for a significant period of time. For instance, a thirty-five year old will not be able to seek an annulment of the marriage based solely on the grounds that they entered the marriage before their 18th birthday. The court will consider the marriage confirmed by the once under aged spouse due to the significant amount of time that has passed.
The type of annulment discussed in this article is a civil annulment, which are not to be confused with religious annulments. If you were married in a religious ceremony, a civil annulment will most likely have no effect on how your religion treats your marriage. Likewise, if you acquire a religious annulment, it will have no effect on your marriage in the eyes of the court system.
At Donahue Hagan Klein &Weisberg, we have the experience to determine whether you are entitled to an annulment and guide you through the process to ensure that you receive one.