Divorce, New York Family Law Group

How Long Can You Be Married and Still Get an Annulment?

Last updated on August 23, 2023

The requirements for obtaining an annulment often vary from one jurisdiction to another. Delving into the intricacies of New York’s legal system, this article aims to unravel the time constraints and grounds under which marriages can be annulled. From exploring the legal definitions of void and voidable marriages to shedding light on the specific circumstances that might warrant an annulment rather than a divorce, we embark on a journey through the statutes and precedents that shape the marital dissolution landscape in the Empire State.

For those navigating the complexities of marriage dissolution within the confines of New York’s laws, seeking professional guidance is critical. This is where a seasoned Manhattan annulment attorney can play a crucial role. With their comprehensive understanding of the state’s legal framework and an in-depth knowledge of the nuances that govern annulments, a Manhattan annulment attorney can provide invaluable assistance in building a strong case and ensuring that the legal process is navigated smoothly. At New York Family Law Group, whether it’s gathering evidence, preparing documentation, or advocating on behalf of the clients, our team of Manhattan annulment lawyers stands ready to provide guidance and support, ultimately aiming to secure the most favorable outcome for those seeking annulments in New York. Contact us today at (347) 212-5113 to schedule a consultation. 

What is an Annulment?

An annulment is a legal decree that declares a marriage null and void. An annulled marriage is typically considered to have never existed in the eyes of the law. This concept is rooted in religious and social traditions where a valid marriage is perceived as an unbreakable bond, and the only way to ‘break’ it is to declare it non-existent from the onset.

Void Marriages

Void marriages are those that are illegal from the outset and therefore automatically invalid. The law recognizes these marriages as null from the beginning, and no formal legal action is necessary to declare them as such. Examples of void marriages include those involving bigamy (a person is already married to someone else), incest (marriage between close relatives), or if one or both parties are not of legal age to marry.

Voidable Marriages

Voidable marriages, on the other hand, are not automatically illegal. They are considered valid until a court declares them void. The circumstances that can make a marriage voidable include fraud, duress, mistake, impotency, or lack of consent. For instance, if one party was coerced into the marriage or was not of sound mind when the marriage took place, the marriage could be annulled.

Annulment vs. Divorce

Although both annulment and divorce terminate a marriage, they do so in different ways and have different legal implications.

A divorce ends a legally valid marriage. It acknowledges that the marriage existed but has now ended. Divorce proceedings often involve matters like division of property, child custody, child support, and alimony. After a divorce, both parties are free to remarry.

In contrast, an annulment declares a marriage null and void—as if it never existed. Therefore, issues like property division, alimony, and spousal support are typically not a part of annulment proceedings. However, if children are involved, courts may still require decisions on child custody and support.

One significant difference between annulment and divorce is the stigma attached to divorce in some societies. Since an annulled marriage is considered never to have existed, it may be more socially acceptable in places where divorce carries a stigma.

Annulment Process in New York

In New York, an annulment is a legal procedure that declares a marriage null and void. While the specific reasons for an annulment (the grounds) can vary, the process typically follows a standard series of steps:

  • Determine Eligibility for Annulment: The first step in the annulment process is to determine if you are eligible. Unlike a divorce, which can be obtained for a variety of reasons, an annulment is only available under certain circumstances.
  • Consultation with an Attorney: Given the complexity of annulment cases, it is recommended to consult with an attorney experienced in family law. They can provide guidance on the annulment process, help compile necessary evidence, and represent you in court proceedings.
  • Filing the Annulment Petition: The individual seeking the annulment (the plaintiff) must file an annulment petition in the New York Supreme Court in the county where either spouse resides. The petition must detail the reasons for seeking the annulment.
  • Serving the Petition: After filing the petition, the plaintiff must serve the other spouse (the defendant) with a copy. The defendant then has the opportunity to respond. If they agree with the annulment, they sign an affidavit of defendant form. If they contest it, a hearing is set.
  • Court Proceedings: The court reviews the petition, the defendant’s response (if applicable), and any evidence provided. If the judge is convinced that the circumstances warrant an annulment, they will issue an annulment decree.
  • Post-Annulment Proceedings: Following the annulment, the court may still need to resolve issues related to property division, child custody, and child support. It’s important to note that, unlike in a divorce, there is typically no provision for alimony following an annulment.

The process of obtaining an annulment in New York is more complex and stringent than filing for a divorce. It involves multiple steps, from determining eligibility and consulting with an attorney to filing the petition and possibly attending court proceedings. While the annulment process can be challenging, it’s a crucial legal avenue for those who seek to end a marriage that they believe should not have been legally recognized in the first place.

Annulment Process in New York Steps Involved
Determine Eligibility for Annulment Assess if you meet the specific eligibility criteria for an annulment, which is available under certain circumstances.
Consultation with an Attorney Seek advice from a family law attorney to understand the complexities, gather evidence, and receive guidance through the process.
Filing the Annulment Petition File the annulment petition in the New York Supreme Court in the county where either spouse resides. Provide reasons for the annulment.
Serving the Petition Serve the defendant with a copy of the petition. The defendant can respond and either agree (sign affidavit) or contest (trigger a hearing).
Court Proceedings The court reviews the petition, defendant’s response, and evidence. If convinced, the judge issues an annulment decree.
Post-Annulment Proceedings Address property division, child custody, and child support if needed. Unlike divorce, alimony is typically not granted post-annulment.

Grounds for Annulment in New York

In the state of New York, a marriage can be declared null and void through the process of annulment under certain specific conditions. Rather than ending a valid marriage, as in divorce, an annulment treats the marriage as though it never legally existed. There are several grounds for annulment in New York, each of which we will explore in detail.

Fraud or Misrepresentation

One of the most common grounds for an annulment in New York is fraud or misrepresentation. This is when one spouse lies or misrepresents significant facts to the other spouse, and these lies or misrepresentations are a key reason why the marriage took place.

For example, if one spouse lied about their desire to have children, their financial status, or their personal history, such as a criminal record or a previous marriage, these could be considered grounds for an annulment if the other spouse would not have consented to the marriage had they known the truth.

It’s important to note that the misrepresentation or fraud must be significant and directly related to the marital relationship. Misrepresentations that are not vital to the essence of the marriage, such as lying about one’s age or educational background, are usually not grounds for an annulment.

Lack of Consent

Another ground for annulment in New York is lack of consent. This can occur if one spouse was coerced into the marriage, was mentally unfit to consent at the time of the marriage, or was intoxicated or under the influence of drugs at the time of the marriage ceremony.

In each of these cases, the spouse did not or could not give free and informed consent to the marriage. If it can be proved that there was a lack of informed consent, the marriage can be annulled.

Concealment of Impotence

Concealment of impotence or the inability to have sexual intercourse can also be grounds for an annulment in New York. If one spouse cannot or refuses to engage in sexual intercourse and this was not disclosed before marriage, the other spouse can request an annulment.

This is because the ability to have sexual intercourse is considered a fundamental aspect of marriage. If one spouse cannot participate in sexual intercourse and did not disclose this fact before the marriage, the other spouse can argue that they would not have entered into the marriage if they had known this beforehand.

Underage Marriage

In New York, an individual must be at least 18 years old to get married without parental consent. If either spouse was under the age of 18 when the marriage took place and did not have proper parental consent, the marriage can be annulled.

It’s important to note that if both parties continue to live together after they both reach the age of 18, the marriage cannot be annulled on the grounds of age.

Incestuous Marriages

Marriages between close relatives are considered incestuous under New York law and are void from the start. This includes marriages between parents and children, siblings, and other close blood relatives. Such marriages can be annulled at any time by any party, even after the death of one of the spouses.

Bigamy or Prior Existing Marriage

Bigamy, which involves being married to more than one person at the same time, is illegal in New York. If one spouse was still legally married to someone else at the time of the second marriage, the second marriage is considered bigamous and can be annulled.

However, if the previous spouse is deceased or the previous marriage has been legally dissolved by the time of the second marriage, the second marriage is not bigamous and cannot be annulled on these grounds.

The grounds for annulment in New York are specific and must be clearly proven in court. It’s advisable to consult with an experienced annulment attorney before seeking an annulment in order to fully understand the implications and requirements. Annulments can be more difficult to obtain than divorces because of the need to prove the specific grounds, but in certain circumstances, they can provide a legal solution that treats a marriage as though it never occurred.

Timeframes for Pursuing an Annulment in New York

In New York, the legal framework surrounding annulments is complex and varies depending on the circumstances of the marriage. While there is no strict statute of limitations for annulments, there are certain timeframes and conditions to consider when pursuing an annulment.

No Statute of Limitations for Void Marriages

In New York, an inherently void marriage (also known as a void ab initio – void from the beginning) is never recognized as legal, no matter how long the couple remains married. Examples of void marriages include instances of bigamy or incest. These marriages can be annulled at any point as they were never legally valid to begin with.

Voidable Marriages

Unlike void marriages, voidable marriages may not remain voidable indefinitely. These are marriages that can be considered illegal under certain conditions.

  • For example, if a couple marries when one or both parties are below the legal age of 18, the marriage is voidable. However, if the couple continues to live together after both have reached the legal age, the marriage cannot be annulled on the grounds of age. The same applies to a marriage entered under false pretenses. If the deceived party continues the marital relationship after the truth is revealed, they lose the ability to seek an annulment on these grounds.
  • If one party was under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the wedding ceremony but did not object to the marriage after becoming sober, and continued the marriage for an extended period, the court will likely not grant an annulment. The continued marital relationship after sobriety indicates acceptance of the marriage, thereby removing the basis for annulment.
  • A marriage involving a party who was unable to give consent due to mental illness at the time of marriage is voidable. However, if the mentally ill person recovers and the couple continues the marriage, the marriage cannot be annulled on these grounds. The law views the continuation of the marital relationship as an affirmation of the marriage.
  • The law does impose a specific timeframe in one instance: if a spouse is physically unable to consummate the marriage. In such cases, an annulment must be pursued within five years. This is one of the few instances where New York law specifies a clear timeframe for seeking an annulment.

While there is no strict statute of limitations for annulments in New York, the eligibility for an annulment can change over time. The nuances of void and voidable marriages, the effects of continued cohabitation, and the ability to consummate the marriage all play into the potential for an annulment. As always, individuals seeking an annulment should consult with a qualified Manhattan annulment attorney to understand the specifics of their situation and the potential legal ramifications.

Getting the Legal Help of an Experienced Manhattan Annulment Attorney

Understanding the timeline for pursuing an annulment in New York is crucial for individuals dealing with marriages they wish to dissolve quickly and smoothly. Navigating the complexities of this process requires a careful approach. If you’re facing such challenges, getting help from an experienced Manhattan annulment attorney can be extremely valuable. NYC annulment attorneys have a deep understanding of New York’s family law regulations and extensive experience with annulment cases. 

At New York Family Law Group, our team of Manhattan annulment lawyers can provide the guidance and representation necessary to protect your rights and streamline the path to resolution. Taking the proactive step of contacting a capable attorney can help you navigate this intricate journey confidently and calmly, ensuring you make well-informed decisions as you embark on a new chapter in your life. Contact us today at (347) 212-5113 to schedule a consultation. 

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