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Am I Eligible for an Annulment Instead of a Divorce?

by | Sep 8, 2020 | divorce, News and Events

Divorce isn’t the only option to end a marriage on Long Island. In some cases, married couples may be eligible for an annulment. Here’s what you need to know about annulments, how they differ from a Long Island divorce, under what conditions are couples eligible to have their marriage annulled, and how to get legal help with an annulment.

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What Is an Annulment?

An annulment is a legal declaration that a marriage was never legitimate and therefore neither party was lawfully married. This differs from a divorce, which is the dissolution of a valid marriage.

Eligibility for an Annulment on Long Island

The State of New York allows annulment in very specific cases, such as:

  • One or both parties were in a previous marriage that had not yet been dissolved. Also known as bigamy, if either party was previously married and did not go through the proper process to have that marriage dissolved, they are still considered married in the eyes of the law. Therefore the new marriage would be considered invalid and eligible for annulment.
  • One party agreed to the marriage by coercion or force. An annulment is likely to be granted if the petitioner can show evidence that they were compelled to get married by force or coercion. For example, one party may have threatened harm to the other or their family members if they did not agree to the marriage.
  • One party was under the legal age of consent at the time of the marriage. In New York, the age of consent is 17. If an individual is married before they turn 17, the marriage is generally considered invalid and may be annulled.
  • One party consented to the marriage on fraudulent grounds. For example, say one party told the other that they were financially well off and the other party agreed to the marriage in part due to the promise of financial security. If the party who agreed to the marriage later discovers that their spouse is actually in debt, this could be grounds for an annulment based on one party fraudulently representing themselves to secure the marriage.
  • One or both parties were incapable of consenting at the time of the marriage. This is one of the most common grounds for an annulment on Long Island. For example, if both parties were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they are likely to be considered having been too incapacitated to provide adequate consent to the marriage.
  • One party is physically unable to participate in sexual relations. If one party entered into the marriage believing they would be able to consummate the marriage but later find out that their spouse cannot engage in sexual relations due to a physical impairment, this could be considered grounds for an annulment.

When Is an Annulment Not Granted?

In some cases, an annulment will not be granted. For example, a judge may dismiss a motion filed due to:

  • The lack of consummation of the marriage. If no physical impairment prevents one party from engaging in sexual relations, a judge generally won’t grant an annulment simply because one party has not yet agreed to consummate the marriage.
  • Wanting to end the marriage after a short time. Many people mistakenly believe that a marriage can be annulled if both parties decide they no longer want to be together shortly after they got married, but this is not true in New York. Even if married for only a short time, if the marriage does not meet one of the above criteria for annulment, a divorce or legal separation will need to take place.

Do I Need a Long Island Divorce Lawyer for an Annulment?

While not a divorce, an annulment is still a legal process. You can benefit greatly from having an experienced Long Island family lawyer at the helm of your annulment case. Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. has significant experience representing parties getting an annulment and can help you gather the evidence needed to help solidify your case. Contact us today for a consultation for more information about annulments, mediation, divorce, and other family law topics or to schedule your consultation at 631-923-1910.


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