Whenever clients think of an annulment, I know many of them think either about the “FRIENDS” episode with Ross and Rachel, where they get married after too many cocktails. The scene is well-written and funny, and somewhat accurate: they end up not getting the annulment because they were unable to show appropriate grounds. Obtaining an annulment in NJ is a fact-intensive and evidence-based request you make from the court, which should be done with the assistance of an experienced lawyer.What is an Annulment?
An annulment does not merely end a marriage, like a divorce. It nullifies it completely, as though the marriage never occurred. If you file for an annulment in NJ, there are no residency requirements like there are when filing for divorce. The person requesting the annulment simply must be a valid resident at the time they file.What are the Grounds for an Annulment in NJ?
According to N.J.S.A 2A:34-1, the court can grant an annulment based on impotence, incest, bigamy, lack of consent, incapacity, being underage, fraud or duress.What About a Church Annulment?
Church annulments may be a good option for some, particularly for Catholics whose faith often does not permit divorce. You would need to arrange the process with your local parish and archdiocese and, similar to a court case, would offer your arguments and witnesses as to why your marriage should or should not be invalidated. However, an annulment from the church has absolutely no bearing on your marriage in the legal sense. Therefore, even if you obtain an annulment through the church, you would not legally be able to remarry again because, under the law, your marriage would still be in place.What is the Timeline for an Annulment in New Jersey?
Often, annulments are filed very shortly after the marriage. This is because if the parties ratify the marriage, they lose the grounds for divorce. Waiting months or years to file would be evidence to show that the parties might have ratified their relationship. There is no residential requirement, and therefore, if your spouse does not fight over the annulment, then it can proceed quickly. There is no property division which takes place, unlike in a divorce, which can often reduce the time and costs associated with family law litigation. However, if there are children involved, a custody dispute could complicate and extend the life of a suit for annulment in NJ.What is the Process for Getting an Annulment in NJ?
First, the spouse requesting said annulment will need to draft and file the “Complaint for Annulment.” The complaint must state the name of the spouse, the date of marriage, names of children, the ages of children, and the grounds for an annulment. Then the filed complaint must be served on the spouse and an affidavit of service needs to be filed with the court. If the request for annulment is contested, a plenary hearing will be held to determine if an annulment is warranted.What if the Spouses Have Children?
Even if your annulment is granted, and your marriage is considered void, this has no effect on the ‘legitimacy’ of any children. In other words, the father continues to be considered the father by law, unless someone else can be shown to be the father.
The judge can make determinations concerning child custody and child support, and even award alimony if it is appropriate and the evidence supports his ruling. Property is not divided in an annulment, although if the parties had any sort of contractual agreement regarding the ownership and use of property, this can be disputed in regular civil court under basic contract law.
Getting an annulment in NJ requires a fairly significant burden of proof that is not required in uncontested divorces. Peter Van Aulen has twenty-five years of experience in family Law. He is certified by the New Jersey Supreme Court as a matrimonial attorney. His office is conveniently located in Saddle Brook New Jersey near exits for Interstate 80, Garden State Parkway, New Jersey Turnpike and Route 17. If you are curious about how to obtain an annulment in New Jersey, call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at 201-845-7400 for a free initial consultation.