What Is the Difference Between a Divorce and an Annulment?

Difference Between a Divorce and an Annulment.

A divorce and an annulment both result in the dissolution of the marriage, though there are some fundamental differences between the two. While a divorce ends a marriage, a legal annulment retroactively declares that the marriage was never valid. In many cases, an uncontested divorce may be simpler than an annulment, particularly if you were only married for a short period of time and you do not have children or significant financial assets to be divided. An annulment may be the preferred option in certain circumstances, but you must meet the requirements of the New Jersey annulment statute. If you have questions about whether divorce or annulment is appropriate for your circumstances, contact an experienced divorce lawyer to determine the best course of action.

What Are the Grounds for an Annulment in New Jersey?

All states, including New Jersey, allow for no-fault divorces, which means irreconcilable differences is the basis upon which a spouse is seeking a divorce. In contrast, to obtain an annulment, the person seeking the legal action must have sufficient grounds for nullifying the marriage. The following are examples of grounds for annulment that are recognized by New Jersey law:

  • Bigamy: This is the act of entering into a marriage while still being married to another person, which is against the law in New Jersey. If the party seeking an annulment can prove that the other spouse was already married, they may seek an annulment.
  • Duress: If one party is forced to marry under the threat of serious violence, the marriage may be annulled.
  • Mental illness: If an individual has a serious mental illness and marries without knowingly or willingly consenting to the marriage, this may be grounds for an annulment.
  • Age: New Jersey law states that individuals under the age of 18 cannot get married without Court approval and parental consent. If an underage person secures a marriage license without such approval, the marriage may be subject to an annulment.
  • Incest: According to New Jersey law, incestuous marriages, such as those between parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, brother and sister, uncles and nieces, aunts and nephews, and first cousins, are prohibited and subject to annulment.
  • Fraud: If an individual was lied to or misrepresented themselves in a way that affects the marriage, this may be grounds for annulment. Examples include being dishonest about the desire to have children, failing to disclose a pregnancy by another man, misrepresenting the importance of one’s religious beliefs, or using the spouse as a means for citizenship.

How Do I Obtain an Annulment?

Assuming you have the necessary grounds to secure an annulment, you must fill out and file the “Complaint for Annulment” form. You will need to provide information about yourself, your spouse, your children, details about your marriage, and the reason that you are seeking an annulment. The Complaint will need to be properly served on your spouse or their attorney. That person must fill out an Affidavit of Service, which must also be filed with the Court. If you and your spouse agree about the annulment, the judge will enter a decree of annulment. However, if your spouse does not agree, the judge will need to hold a hearing, where you and your spouse will be required to testify and provide evidence so that the judge can determine whether to grant a Judgment of Nullity.

How Does an Annulment Impact Alimony and Child Support?

While child support and custody issues in an annulment are generally resolved in the same way as in a divorce, spouses who obtain an annulment are not entitled to alimony. Additionally, rather than distributing the marital property equitably, the court will likely leave each party in the same financial position that they were in prior to getting married.

Somerville Divorce Attorneys at Lepp, Mayrides & Eaton, LLC Can Help Clients Who Wish to End Their Marriage

The experienced Somerville divorce lawyers at Lepp, Mayrides & Eaton, LLC ensure their clients’ rights are protected, whether settlement is reached, or litigation is necessary. Call us at 908-800-7676 or contact us online to schedule a consultation. 

Located in Somerville, New Jersey, our attorneys serve clients throughout Central New Jersey, including those in Somerset County, Hunterdon County, Warren County, Morris County, Monmouth County, Union County, Middlesex County, and Mercer County.