Annulments in New York are generally more difficult to obtain than a divorce or legal separation because you have to prove that your marriage was void or never valid. If you want to file for an annulment in New York City, you must have a hearing. During the hearing, you must prove that the marriage was invalid. This requires proper documentation that an attorney would be best suited to research and provide. The annulment can be contested by your spouse as well, which can lead to a more costly process. Before seeking an annulment on your own with the Court, it is best to consult with an annulment attorney to determine if an annulment is right for you.
New York Marriage Annulment Laws and Regulations
Certain marriages are considered void and others are considered voidable. In New York, a marriage is void from its inception, if it is bigamous or incestuous or if one of the spouses is under the age of 14 years old. If the marriage is void from the start, then you do not need a judge to declare that the marriage is not valid. However, there are times when such a declaration is necessary for administrative purposes. In those instances, you may start a lawsuit seeking an official annulment. A marriage is void if:
Incest – The marriage is incestuous. Section 5 of the Domestic Relations Law provides that marriages between parents, children, aunts, nephews, uncles, nieces, brothers and sisters are incestuous.
Bigamy – The marriage is bigamous. Domestic Relations Law sections 6 and 140 prohibits marriages where a former spouse is alive and the former marriage has not been dissolved or annulled.
Marriage with a person under 14 years of age – Domestic Relations Law section 5 prohibits a marriage where a party is under the age of 14.
Voidable marriages are considered valid marriages unless and until one of the spouses sues for an annulment. If the court grants the request for annulment, it essentially declares that the marriage was never valid. A marriage is voidable when:
Underage Marriage – Either you or your spouse were under the age of 18 when you married each other. Parental consent is required when a minor between 16 and 18 wished to marry. Court approval is additionally required if the minor is between the ages of 14 and 16.
Mental retardation or illness – At the time of the marriage, you or your spouse could not consent to the marriage because of mental retardation or illness. You may sue for annulment if you were not aware that your spouse was mentally ill at the time of the marriage. Also, the annulment action in New York can be brought by any relative of the mentally ill spouse who has an interest to void the marriage. For example, a relative who may receive a greater inheritance after the marriage is annulled has ‘interest to avoid the marriage’.
Physical Incapacity – A marriage is voidable if one of the spouses is incapacitated. You may sue for an annulment if your spouse is physically incapacitated—only if you did not know of your spouse’s condition at the time of your marriage. Also, the spouse’s incapacity must be incurable, and the annulment suit must be commenced within the first five years of the marriage.
Incurably Mentally Ill – You and/or your spouse were incurably mentally ill for a period of five or more years. Under the Domestic Relations Law, the disabled spouse must be deemed mentally ill by three mental health experts. When the annulment is granted on this ground, the Court may provide for the support of the disabled spouse during life from the property or income of the other spouse.
How to Get a Marriage Annulment in NYC?
The filing process for an annulment is similar to that of a divorce. The process for an annulment in New York starts when the impacted spouse files a Summons and Verified Complaint with the County Clerk in New York City. This document lets the Court know that you wish to seek a marriage annulment. The person that files this document is the “Plaintiff”. After you file your complaint, the County Clerk will give you an index number. Upon obtaining the index number, you must serve the papers to your spouse, who will be designated as the defendant in your NYC Marriage Annulment lawsuit. The Defendant might contest the annulment by filing an answer to your complaint. Or, the Defendant might sign an Affidavit agreeing to the annulment. If the annulment is contested, the case will take longer because it will have to be heard in Court.
What's the Annulment Time Frame?
There is no time frame to get an annulment in New York City. You can ask the Court for an annulment whether you have been married for 2 years or for 25 years as long as some of the grounds for annulment are met. However, if your marriage length has been less than five years and you seek an annulment, you must use the grounds that do not require a five-year time frame. Make sure you tell your Manhattan annulment lawyer how long you were married to so that they may determine the specific grounds to use in your annulment case.
Difference Between Annulment, Divorce and Legal Separation?
In New York, you can legally end a marriage through either divorce or annulment. For each, you will have to prove different facts. When you get an annulment, the Court is essentially declaring that the marriage was never valid or that the marriage is void. Annulments are generally harder to obtain than a divorce because you must convince the Court that the marriage should be declared null and void by proving certain facts.
When you get a divorce, you are acknowledging that the marriage was valid and want to terminate it. New York is a no-fault divorce state, meaning that you do not have to prove the reason you want to get divorced other than letting the court know that the marriage between you and your spouse has not functioned or has been irretrievably broken for a period of at least six months. There are other grounds for a divorce such as adultery, domestic abuse or inhumane treatment, abandonment and/or imprisonment of your spouse for three or more years. But a no-fault divorce is by far the simplest way to end your marriage.
Legal separation does not change your marital status. When you apply for legal separation, you are still legally married, and you cannot marry someone else. Legal separation is for people who cannot get divorced due to religious reasons or other financial circumstances. The grounds for legal separation are like that of an at-fault divorce: adultery, abandonment, imprisonment of your spouse for a period of three or more years, neglect and inhumane treatment.
Whether you end your marriage with a divorce or an annulment, you must keep in mind that the Court must still decide if and how much alimony is to be paid and how to divide your assets and debts. Also, if you have children, the Court must decide custody, visitation and child support issues.
Contact Manhattan Annulment Lawyers at Stepanian Law Firm
If you are unsure whether you wish to annul your marriage, divorce or legally separate from your spouse, contact our Manhattan annulment lawyers at Stepanian Law Firm. We can provide you with the necessary guidance to find the best option for you. Contact us here or call us at (646) 596-6874 today.