The end result of a divorce and an annulment is, in many ways, the same:  the parties are no longer married.  The difference therefore is in the means rather than the ends.  As is so often the case with law (and life), the “devil is in the details.”

Although this is an oversimplification, a divorce ends a valid marriage.  Conversely, an annulment voids a marriage entirely.  There is no “end” of a marriage in an annulment, because there is no valid beginning.  New Jersey law treats the annulled marriage as though it never existed in the first place.

But now for a caveat: some marriages are void by annulment, whereas other are merely voidable.  Even if both parties wish to remain married, a void marriage will never be valid in the eyes of the State.  A voidable marriage merely presents an opportunity to have a marriage annulled.  For instance, if you got married while intoxicated–your marriage may be voidable.  If you give consent–implied or otherwise–by remaining married for a validating period of time following the marriage, then you can no longer seek an annulment under those grounds.

New Jersey Annulment Law  

When I use the term “annulment law” in this post, I am not referring to religious annulments.  I am rather discussing the concept of annulment law in New Jersey, or “legal annulment.”

Under N.J.S.A 2A: 34-1, Judgments of annulment (or the “nullity of marriage”) may be rendered in cases when:

  • Either party has another wife, husband, civil union partner, or domestic partner living at the time of the marriage.  (polygamy).
  • The parties are within the “degrees” of consanguinity.  (incest).
  • Impotency (in some cases, if unknown by the other party at the time of the marriage).
  • Lack of capacity (mental capacity, drunkenness, etc).  As noted above, a lack of capacity is, in many instances voidable rather than automatically void.
  • One or both parties are under the legal age to consent to marriage.
  • Fraud (possible examples: failing to disclose intimacy, intent to have children, only agreeing to marriage to gain citizenship, etc.)  Fraud is particularly case-sensitive.
It should be noted that these same annulment laws apply almost universally to marriages, civil unions, and domestic partnerships.
Conclusion 
Annulments in New Jersey are generally a rare occurrence.  Annulments are only granted in narrowly defined instances.  Merely regretting your marriage generally leads to a divorce rather than an annulment.
As these issues are fact and case-specific, it is best to review these matters with an appropriate expert such as a New Jersey family law attorney.

Your New Jersey Divorce Lawyer:

If you’re considering a New Jersey divorce or Family Law action contact me to discuss your options.  You can schedule an initial consultation by calling my office at 908-237-3096 or by scheduling your own divorce consultation online by clicking here.