In New York State, a marriage can legally be dissolved by a judgment of divorce, or by an annulment. There is a major difference between obtaining a divorce and an annulment-- while a divorce ends a marriage which was valid from the inception, an annulment declares that the marriage is a nullity, as it was not valid when entered into. New York Domestic Relations Law recognizes several circumstances under which a marriage may be void, or voidable. Accordingly, there are only a limited number of circumstances under which a civil annulment may be obtained in New York.
The New York Domestic Relations Law provides for both void and voidable marriages. In New York State, marriages that are prohibited and void from the outset include any marriage entered into between ancestor and descendent, brother and sister (by half or whole blood), or aunt/uncle and niece/nephew. Marriages are also declared void if one of the parties to the marriage did not legally dissolve a previous marriage and that former spouse is still living. In either of these cases, the parties could not legally enter into a marriage.
On the other hand, a marriage can be voidable, at the court’s discretion, if:
Either party was not eighteen years old at the time the marriage was entered into
One of the parties was mentally incapable of consenting to enter into marriage
A physical incapability of one of the parties prevents them from entering into the marriage
The marriage was procured by force, duress, or fraud
One of the parties has suffered a mental illness for five or more years
The criteria to obtain an annulment is quite narrow, and an annulment can be difficult to obtain. Each situation is unique. Whether you have questions concerning whether you satisfy the grounds for an annulment, or if you are considering ending your marriage by divorce, it is best to consult with an attorney to discuss your legal options and rights. Additionally, if your ceremony was a religious one, it may also be possible to have your marriage annulled through a process recognized by that religion, regardless of whether your civil marriage was dissolved by divorce or a legal annulment. It is best to speak with your clergy or religious leader concerning whether you may be able to obtain a religious annulment.
The Law Office of Jessica M. Semins handles matrimonial and family law matters. Contact Jessica to schedule a consultation at (646) 397-6844. Jessica is available to represent clients in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Staten Island, Long Island, Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester. Jessica is available to meet with clients at office locations in Manhattan, or Melville, Long Island. Consultations are by appointment only.
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