Divorce or annulment, annulment or divorce? Many people, when facing the end of their marriage, wonder what the best way is to go about it. There are different laws in New Jersey that govern divorce and annulment and legally they are two very different concepts. Which one is right for you? Here are some things you may not know about annulments in New Jersey.
An annulment means your marriage never happened. If the judge agrees that your marriage should be annulled, that means that the marriage is void, and, in effect, that it never took place. Unlike a divorce that ends a legitimate marriage, if your marriage is annulled, you were never legally married.
There are grounds for annulling a marriage just like there are grounds for divorce. You need to prove your grounds or reason why you think the judge should grant you an annulment. Grounds include, but are not limited to: impotence, bigamy, fraud, not being old enough or coercion.
Religious annulments are not the same as civil annulments. If your marriage is granted by your church or other religious organization, that religious annulment has no effect on your legal marriage. If you want your marriage legally annulled, you still must file your request for an annulment with your local state family court.
An annulment is not necessarily easier if your marriage is short. Many people believe that it is easier to annul a very short marriage. This is not the case. There is nothing in New Jersey law that talks about duration of marriage when discussing annulments. You can be married a very brief time or a longer time and still have your marriage annulled.
You can have your marriage annulled if you have children. Even if you and your spouse have children, the court can still annul your marriage, as long as you prove one of the grounds. For example, if you find out that you and your spouse are closely related, even if you had children, the court could grant the annulment based upon this blood relation.
The court is limited on how it can divide marital property in an annulment. The court is free to make decisions regarding your children, such as custody and child support, based on the best interests of your children. However, the court can divide property based only on title: what is in your name is yours, what is in your spouse’s name is theirs and what is in both names is split 50/50. There is no equitable distribution because the court is saying there was no marriage, hence, no marital property to equitably divide.
If you or your spouse is considering filing for divorce or an annulment and need advice on how to proceed, please contact us to set up your initial consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys.