Both divorces and annulments end a marriage, but they are very different legal processes. When you get a divorce, the law acknowledges your marriage. As part of your legal paper trail, there will always be a record that shows you were married from one date to another.
An annulment, on the other hand, essentially disqualifies a marriage. It assumes that the marriage should not have happened to begin with, and it erases that marriage from your legal record. The law essentially assumes that you were never married, and the marriage remains only a part of your personal history, not your legal one.
Invalidating a marriage requires a higher legal standard. It’s not enough to simply claim you are unhappy in the marriage and want it to end. You must have proof that the marriage deserves to be legally negated.
The legal requirements for annulling a marriage in New York include the following scenarios.
At Least One Spouse Is Underage
In New York, there are a limited number of reasons to justify the marriage of a minor, someone under 18. In rare and specialized circumstances, a judge may sign off on such a marriage. Also, parents can give express consent that allows their minor to get married.
Beyond these narrow conditions, if either spouse was under the age of 18 at the time of the wedding, the marriage can be annulled. The underage party can file for annulment any time before they turn 18.
At Least One Spouse Cannot Have Sex
Most conditions for annulment must be met at the time of the marriage, and many involve some form of deceit. The sexual intercourse qualification is not about growing old or having an accident, thereby losing sexual performance. This standard implies that the couple did not have sex before the marriage, and after the wedding, one party revealed that they were incapable of doing so. In this situation, you have five years from the date of the marriage to file for an annulment.
At Least One Spouse Could Not Consent to the Marriage
Mental illness can take many forms. Some are explosive and obvious, and others are subdued and difficult to detect. Some mental illnesses, such as dissociative identity disorder (DID), can cause people to lead completely different lives. When they emerge from their mental fog, they find they’ve made choices they wouldn’t have with a sound mind.
If someone was mentally incapable of consenting to the marriage, the court can annul their union. This may even apply to mentally challenged people who the court feels cannot make such decisions.
At Least One Spouse Was Forced into the Marriage
We love our freedom to choose our partners, but even in our modern world, some are coerced into unions they never wanted. Some religious groups operate this way, and criminal organizations can use marriages as power moves.
Fraud and lies count as a form of coercion, too. Imagine you meet someone who convinces you they are rich, only to find they are broke and using the marriage to swindle you. Whenever someone is coerced into a marriage, by force or by fraud, they can file for an annulment.
At Least One Spouse Becomes Mentally Incapacitated
If either spouse suffers a debilitating mental illness, the mentally sound spouse can annul the marriage. This could potentially apply to marriages where one party is injured and vegetative as well.
There are some caveats to this standard. As stated, the illness must be debilitating. It does not apply to someone who develops functional depression or anxiety. Also, the illness must last for at least five years, and health professionals must conclude that the condition is incurable.
At Least One Spouse Was Already Married
If one person already has a legal, active, undissolved marriage, the other spouse can file for an annulment. The marriage can be annulled at any time according to this condition.
This does not include a deceptive spouse who has another partner that believes they are the legal spouse. Courts will simply view this as infidelity, which is grounds for a standard divorce.
Property Division in an Annulment
In a divorce, the law assumes that property acquired during the marriage belongs to both spouses. This is called “marital property.” When a couple divorces, the courts must decide which spouse is entitled to which assets. New York uses the equitable model, dividing property by what it deems fairest.
In most situations, a New York marriage can be annulled within five years of the wedding. During that time, you can acquire plenty of property. Remember, an annulment assumes that the marriage should never have been legalized, so you are unlikely to share or divide property during the process. The court will probably give property to whoever has their name on the lease.
Spousal Support in an Annulment
Again, you are not ending a legally sanctioned marriage in an annulment. Therefore, you should not expect to pay or receive spousal support.
Child Support in an Annulment
After an annulment, the law will view the children as having two single, independent parents. There are ways to pay and collect child support between unwed parents. After an annulment, the former couple must use these methods. Otherwise, the law will assume that no one is asking for child support, and it will leave the parents alone.
Child Custody in an Annulment
If you want custody after your annulment, you must approach the matter as a single parent. You may need to prove that the other parent is unfit, posing a danger to the children. Otherwise, you can expect them to plead for joint or even full custody. The court will treat this matter the same way it would with any unwed couple that shares a child.
If you need a divorce or an annulment, trust Empire Law to help. We can review the facts and help you determine if you qualify to receive an annulment. Call us today at (347) 378-1170, or contact us online.