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New York Annulments
Annulments in New York

When a couple obtains an annulment in New York, the marriage vanishes retroactively, as if they had never been married.

A marriage in New York must be void or voidable to be annulled. A void marriage is flawed; no matter how long it exists, the marriage can never be legally valid. Void marriages can always be annulled in New York. A void marriage happens, for example, when one or both parties are ineligible to marry because they are too closely related, or when one or both people are already married.

Voidable marriages, on the other hand, require the presentation of evidence, for example, if one or both partners are incurably insane for five years or more, or if they are incapable of sexual intercourse.

In an annulment, the court issues a declaration of nullity, which divides the marital estate property, settles child custody, and deals with any other issues.

An annulment is functionally equivalent to a divorce, but it is significantly harder to obtain an annulment in New York than a divorce. Many couples prefer divorce even if they may have been eligible for annulment. Unlike a divorce, which can be based on irreconcilable differences, an annulment must be proven.

In New York, although an annulment voids marriage, children born during the marriage are legitimate. Additionally, an annulment does nothing to affect custody or child support and also establishes a presumption of paternity.

New York Domestic Relations Law 140(b-e); N.Y. Dom. Rel. Law 24; and 48 N.Y. Jur. 2d Domestic Relations 2441 describes annulment law in New York.

Grounds

New York recognizes five grounds for annulment. Those grounds include:

  • One or both spouses were under age 18 at the time of the marriage. However, if the spouses continue to freely live together after both have reached a majority, the claim is waived.
  • One or both spouses were unable to consent to marriage due to mental incapacity. However, if the mentally ill spouse regains mental soundness and the spouses continue to cohabit, the marriage is ratified, and the grounds of mental illness are waived even when and if the mental illness returns.
  • Either spouse is physically unable to have sexual intercourse.
  • Either spouse was incurably mentally ill for at least five years.
  • The marriage consent was obtained by duress, coercion or fraud. However, if the couple voluntarily lived together the court will not annul on the ground of force or duress. Specifically, in a situation when fraud would be sufficient for an annulment, if the victim spouse discovers it but does not immediately separate, he or she has ratified the marriage, thus preventing an annulment.

Procedure

The petitioner drafts a complaint, which includes a pleading and the formal statement of the claim for an annulment. The complaint also lists the facts of the case. The petitioner prepares a summons, which gives notice of the action and specifies the date when the respondent defaults if he or she does not appear to defend the case.

An annulment in New York requires a trial and hearing before a judge. Unlike a divorce, which can be granted upon written or sworn testimony without a trial, an annulment requires at least one of the grounds to be proven in court. The action requires paperwork and evidence including documents and/or witnesses that can support the claim for annulment.

The summons and complaint are filed with the clerk of the Supreme Court in the county of residence. In New York, an action is commenced when you file the summons and complaint.

A process server serves the summons and complaint on the respondent. The opposing party is entitled to formal notice that an action was brought against them. The documents give them notice that they have to appear in the case and interpose a defense. A hearing is held and the judge decides.

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