Introduction to NJ Annulment
An annulment in New Jersey, also known as a nullity of marriage, is a legal procedure that dissolves a marriage as if it never existed. Unlike divorce, which recognizes that a valid marriage existed, an annulment essentially erases the marriage.
There are specific legal grounds that must be proven for a marriage to be eligible for annulment in NJ. These grounds include fraud, incest, bigamy, lack of capacity, and force or duress. If any of these defective conditions existed at the time of marriage, the union can potentially be annulled.
Grounds for Annulment in NJ
One basis for annulment is that one spouse defrauded the other to induce them into marriage. This could include lying about wanting children, sexual identity, financial status, or other material facts. The petitioner must show that the fraud directly caused the marriage.
Incestuous marriages are prohibited in NJ. Annulment can be granted if there is a blood relationship between the spouses that is legally too close. This includes marriages between ancestors, descendants, siblings, aunts/uncles, or nieces/nephews.
If one spouse was still legally married to someone else at the time of the wedding, the subsequent marriage is void. The previous undissolved marriage makes the new marriage invalid.
Lack of capacity
Annulment may be granted if either spouse lacked the mental capacity to consent to the marriage. This could include mental incapacity, intoxication, or being under the age of consent at the time of marriage.
Force or duress
If one spouse was forced into marriage through threats of physical or emotional harm, annulment may be possible. Duress makes true consent impossible.
NJ Annulment Process
Filing for annulment
To start the annulment process, one spouse (the petitioner) files a verified complaint in the Superior Court of NJ. This complaint sets out the legal grounds and facts supporting the request for annulment. The petitioner must provide valid legal reasons the marriage is defective.
Serving your spouse
After filing, the petitioner must have their spouse (the defendant) legally served with the complaint and a summons. This puts the defendant on notice of the annulment action. The defendant has 35 days to file a response.
Responding to the complaint
Once served, the defendant can either default or contest the annulment.
If the defendant does not respond within 35 days, the petitioner can seek a default annulment. The petitioner only needs to prove their grounds for annulment.
The defendant may file an answer contesting the annulment and allegations. This leads to a contested case where grounds must be proven at trial.
For contested annulments, a hearing will be scheduled. Both spouses testify and present evidence related to the legal grounds. The judge weighs the evidence and makes a determination.
If the grounds are proven, the judge will grant a judgment of nullity. This legally voids the marriage as if it never existed. The court will issue a final judgment of annulment.
Effects of Annulment in NJ
Status of marriage
Once annulled, the marriage is erased retroactively. The spouses return to single status as if never married.
Division of assets
Unlike divorce, there is no marital estate to divide equitably. Generally, assets follow title, so each spouse keeps their own property.
With no valid marriage, there are no spousal support obligations. However, the court has discretion to order support in some cases.
Child custody and support
Annulment does not affect children born of the marriage. Custody and support orders can still be issued for any children.
Annulment in New Jersey is an option for voiding a defective marriage. Specific grounds must be proven, and the marriage is then erased through a legal process. While simpler than divorce, retroactively dissolving a marriage has serious effects that require legal guidance. Understanding NJ annulment laws and seeking expert counsel is crucial when considering this option.
What is the difference between annulment and divorce in NJ?
Annulment declares the marriage was never valid from the start. Divorce legally ends a valid marriage.
How long does it take to get an annulment in NJ?
An uncontested NJ annulment may take 2-3 months. Contested cases can take over a year.
Can I get an annulment if I was married in another state?
Yes, the NJ courts can grant annulment for out-of-state marriages as long as legal grounds exist.
Do I need a lawyer to get an annulment in New Jersey?
While not legally required, it is highly advisable to hire an experienced family law attorney for any annulment.
What happens to property and debts after an NJ annulment?
Generally assets follow title, so property reverts back to the original owner. Debts are usually assigned individually.