Unlike divorce, annulment of a marriage is fairly difficult to obtain.
Unlike a divorce that ends a valid marriage, an annulment establishes that the marriage was never legally valid. Annulment is defined in NYS Domestic Relations Law §140. It occurs much less frequently than divorce.
The grounds (or justification) for annulment are different from, and more limited than, divorce grounds. To get an annulment, you will need to prove ONE of the following:
- Bigamy: one of the parties was still married to someone else at the time of the second marriage.
- Either spouse was incurably unable to have sexual intercourse at the time of the marriage.
- After marriage, either spouse becomes incurably insane for five (5) years or more. The Court may require the sane spouse to support the
- Marriage between persons under 18, if the spouse under 18 wants the annulment. The annulment will not be granted if the person married under 18 freely cohabited (had sexual relations) with the other spouse after turning 18.
- A spouse is unable to understand the nature, effect and consequences of marriage because of mental incapacity.
- A spouse agreed to marry as a result of force or duress by the other.
- Fraud (most common ground): the consent to marry was obtained by fraud that would have deceived an ordinarily prudent person and was material to obtaining the other party’s consent. The fraud must go to the essence of the marriage contract. Concealment of a material fact may constitute fraud. Sexual intercourse evidencing forgiveness is an absolute defense.
The legal annulment of a marriage is different from religious annulment. Religious annulment, which not uncommonly follows divorce, may be required in certain faiths to be married again in the same faith. To learn about religious annulment, you should consult leaders of the religious faith under which the marriage ceremony was performed.
Those contemplating a should seriously consider consulting with a lawyer. The court does not provide forms for annulment.
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