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As a Long Island Divorce Lawyer, we often receive inquiries regarding marriage annulments and how they differ from a divorce. Put simply, rather than simply ending the marriage, an annulment has the legal effect of declaring the marriage null and void, basically making it as though the marriage never occurred.

Grounds for Annulment on Long Island

The New York State Domestic Relations Law, which governs divorce actions on Long Island, provides multiple grounds for an annulment. As discussed in our Nov. 28, 2017 article on Void and Voidable marriages, void marriages don’t need an annulment, while voidable marriages are typically grounds for an annulment.

Void Marriages

As a brief refresher, a marriage that is void is void from its inception, i.e. illegitimate. Because this marriage was never valid, an action for an annulment is not necessary to declare the marriage void. Rather, it is automatically considered void by the courts without any further intervention. The two most common grounds when seeking an annulment of a void marriage are:

  1. Incestuous Marriages: Such a marriage is one between an ancestor and descendant, siblings, and an aunt and nephew or uncle and niece. It is important to note that, in addition to the marriage being void, the parties involved may face a fine or a prison sentence upon solemnizing the marriage.
  2. Bigamous Marriages: If a party seeks to marry when they have not divorced a spouse who is still living, the second marriage will be void at its inception.

Voidable Marriages

Again, as a reminder, a marriage that is voidable may be valid at its inception, but can be declared voidable upon court intervention. However, it is important to note that, as with anything within the court’s discretion, the court may deny your application for an annulment. The following are some common grounds when seeking an annulment for a voidable marriage:

  1. A party is under the age of 18: In New York, the legal age of consent is 18. If there is a party under the age of 18 at the time of the marriage, the court may declare a marriage voidable.
  2. A party could not consent to the marriage due to a lack of understanding: New York law requires both parties to be fully capable of understanding what it means to “be married.” This includes having an understanding of the consequences of entering into such a union.
  3. A party consented to the marriage under duress, fraud or force: If a party asserts that his or her consent to the marriage was obtained fraudulently or through force or duress, that party must bring the action for an annulment. It is important to note that if the parties have co-habitated as husband and wife, the court will not grant an annulment on this ground.
  4. A party’s physical disability causes him or her to be unable to engage in sexual relations: One of the most crucial points to understand about this ground for an annulment is that a temporary condition interfering with marital relations will not qualify. A party must have an incurable physical condition in order for a court to grant an annulment based on this ground. Additionally, the party seeking the annulment could not have been aware of this condition upon the marriage, and if they were, they must have been under the assumption that it was curable at the time of marriage.

What is the Effect of an Annulment?

If you are granted an annulment, your marriage will be declared null and void. Your rights to child support, maintenance and equitable distribution will remain the same as if you had sought a divorce under New York law. You are also still permitted to enter into child custody and visitation arrangements, if necessary.

Need More Information About Annulments or Voidable Marriages? Contact a Long Island Divorce Attorney

If you believe you in a void or voidable marriage and would like to seek an annulment, it is important you contact an experienced Long Island Divorce Attorney. The grounds necessary to obtain an annulment are more specific and difficult to prove than those for a divorce. If you would like to speak to an attorney, feel free to call our Long Island Divorce Law Firm to schedule a free consultation at 631-923-1910.


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