1. How does an annulment differ from a divorce?
Like a divorce, an annulment is a court proceeding that ends a marriage. However, unlike a divorce an annulment treats a marriage as though it never happened. For many people, especially young women, a divorce carries a stigma, and they would prefer that the marriage be annulled. Other people prefer an annulment for religious reasons. It may be easier for a person to remarry in their church if they go through an annulment rather than a divorce.
2. What are the grounds for an annulment?
There are four major grounds for an annulment. The first major ground is that there must be some type of misrepresentation or fraud. Some examples of fraud are that the spouse lied about her ability to have children, or that she got married to you even though she was still married to someone else.
The second major ground for an annulment is when there is a concealment of a major issue prior to getting married. Some examples of a concealment that may substantiate an annulment case are concealing an addiction to alcohol or drugs, a conviction of a felony or children from a prior relationship.
The third major ground for an annulment is when one spouse refuses or has an inability to consummate the marriage. Basically, this means that one spouse refuses to have sex with the other spouse.
The fourth major ground for an annulment is that there is a significant misunderstanding. A common example that may warrant granting an annulment is when one person wanted children and the other did not.
Most annulments only take place after a very short marriage – a few weeks or months. An annulment is often appropriate when there are usually no assets or debts to divide, or children for whom custody, visitation, and child support are of a concern.
3. What is the effect of an annulment?
In New Jersey, an annulment may result in the harsh result of extinguishing a person’s rights to property acquired during the marriage. The logic is that if the marriage is void, then there is no equitable distribution of the assets. Therefore, an annulment may be appropriate in some cases when a person wants to pay their soon to be ex-spouse absolutely “nada.” If the marriage is declared void, then the marital assets are not equitably distributed. An annulment treats a marriage as it never happened.
4. What are some common circumstances when a marriage can be annulled?
A marriage can often be annulled when the parties lack the capacity to consent to the marriage when it was solemnized. Many times people get married when they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A person can claim that he or she did not have the ability to consent to the marriage because he or she lacked the mental capacity to do so. Many people are drunk or high when they get married. Recently, the talented Britney Spears was able to have her marriage annulled because she was drunk and got married in Vegas. The marriage was not planned, and it was a “spur of the moment” event. In a factual scenario when there is no planning of the marriage, and if the parties are under the influence of drugs and alcohol, then these may be strong factors to convince a court to annul a marriage.
Another common circumstance under which a marriage can be annulled is when one spouse refuses to have sex. Additionally, if a woman conceals the fact that she cannot have children, then this might be grounds to annul a marriage. Additionally, if a man is impotent, and if he fails to disclose this to his new bride, then this may also be a ground to annul a marriage. A marriage may be annulled if a party was under age for marriage established by New Jersey law. New Jersey statutes require that a person must have reached the full age of 18 years to marry.
In my experience, the most common scenario when a marriage can be annulled is when one spouse is an immigrant. Quite often a foreign “hotty” marries a male US citizen only to enter the United States. Quite magically after only two years the marriage starts to fall apart. After two years an alien can petition the INS to remove the condition of marriage from her VISA. Once the female alien leaves her husband after a short marriage then quite often a whirlwind of anger ensues. In many cases, spurned ex-husband’s dedicate their efforts to try to have their ex-wife deported to their homeland. An excellent way to create maximum aggravation for an alien ex-wife is to file for an annulment. The INS does not like to grant citizenship to aliens who are accused for fraud in an annulment case. In summary, the most common ground for an annulment is that a spouse married only to obtain immigration status.