Divorce is typically the first word that come to mind when people think of ending a marriage, but there are other options for couples who wish to go their separate ways. One of these options is annulment, which is a legal action that invalidates the marriage, rather than dissolve it. This means that the marriage is treated as if it never happened, unlike a divorce, which clearly does recognize the marriage. It may seem pretty harsh to completely void a marriage, but there are legitimate reasons for requesting an annulment as opposed to a divorce.
Let's take, for example, the much-publicized marriage of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries, whose marriage lasted just 72 days. Humphries asked for an annulment on the grounds that the marriage was fraudulent, stating that Kardashian only married him as a publicity stunt. Kardashian refused to agree to an annulment because it would in effect, be an admission of fraud, which she has publicly denied. After about a year-and-a-half from the date of the initial complaint,
Humphries finally agreed to sign off on a divorce.
While this case took place in California, fraud is one of the grounds for seeking an annulment in New Jersey. The other grounds for annulment are:
- You and your spouse are too closely related.
- You or your spouse were married to someone else at the time of your marriage (bigamy). This includes situations in which spouses were legally separated, or had yet to finalize their divorce.
- You or your spouse have a mental condition, or was in a state of intoxication at the time you were married.
- You or your spouse only married because of severe threats or coercion.
- You or your spouse have been diagnosed with permanent and incurable impotence.
- You or your spouse were under the age of 18 when you married, and did not engage in sexual relations after turning 18.
As you can see, these are fairly extreme reasons which would not apply to most marriages. Hence, most people have no choice but to divorce, but even those who qualify for an annulment may find it more beneficial to file for divorce. Because an annulment invalidates the marriage, spouses cannot divide their properties according to the laws of equitable distribution. Properties are divided according to ownership, which can be a serious problem when it comes to important assets like the marital home. In addition, dependent spouses are much less likely to receive alimony, although child support rights remain unaffected since an annulment does not invalidate one's parentage.
There are numerous other factors that you will need to consider before determining whether to file for an annulment or divorce. For a full explanation of your rights and legal options, please consider speaking with the experienced divorce attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C. Our attorneys will advise you of the best course of action for resolving your marriage, while ensuring that the interests of you and your children are protected long into the future.