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Learning that you’ve been lied to and that your spouse isn’t the person you thought they were can truly be devastating. Luckily, you may have some legal recourse as this type of fraud is generally grounds to have the marriage annulled. Although fraud is the most common grounds for annulment, you can also file for an annulment based on a number of other grounds. However, the New York annulment laws are very specific and there are certain time limits and other requirements that must be met in order for a court to void your marriage or rule it invalid.
New York Annulment Laws
New York annulment laws are written in such a way that it’s always best to seek the assistance of a qualified Nassau County annulment lawyer in order to give yourself the best chance of a favorable outcome. Despite what most people believe, a civil annulment cannot be given on the grounds that the marriage has yet to be consummated.
While this may be true for a religious annulment, this factor is irrelevant in the eyes of the court. Instead, a court will generally only grant an annulment in cases where it determines that the marriage is not legally valid based on a number of very specific grounds.
Generally speaking, there are two broad categories of marriages that can be annulled—illegal/void marriages and voidable marriages. Void marriages are those that were never legally valid under New York law, such as incestuous marriages or where one partner was already legally married. As these marriages are not technically legal to begin with, it’s not always necessary to have them annulled since they are invalid.
On the other hand, voidable marriages refer to those cases where a court determines that the union is no longer valid for one of several different reasons.
Fraud, Coercion and Duress
Both parties must agree to the marriage under their own free will. Otherwise, the state may rule that the marriage is invalid and thus qualifies for annulment. This includes cases where one partner was forced or coerced into the marriage, and also in cases where their consent was obtained fraudulently. However, there are exceptions to these rules.
Even if you were forced into the marriage, choosing to voluntarily live with your spouse following the marriage automatically bars you from filing for an annulment. In cases of fraud, New York laws stipulate that you have up to five years from the date you discovered the fraud to file for an annulment. Either way, should your spouse oppose the annulment, an annulment attorney can help you present your case in court to hopefully convince the judge that you have sufficient grounds.
Incurable Mental Illness
Should your partner suffer from an incurable mental illness that lasts for a period of at least five years, this also gives you sufficient grounds to file for an annulment. However, this situation also comes with a caveat. If your spouse has a period of sound mind at any point after the five years and you choose to voluntarily continue living with them, this disqualifies you from filing for annulment on grounds of mental illness.
Physical Inability to Have Sexual Relations
New York courts will also grant an annulment in cases where either spouse is physically unable to have sexual relations. It is important to note that this only applies to the ability to have sex and not the ability to have children. This means that you don’t have grounds for an annulment just because your spouse is sterile. Generally speaking, this type of annulment is only granted if you were unaware of the person’s physical incapacity at the time of marriage, in which case you are given up to five years to file for annulment.
Underage at the Time of Marriage
Judges can also grant an annulment in the case where one or both spouses were under the age of 18 at the time of marriage. However, this type of case must generally be filed before you turn 18. Voluntarily living with your spouse after you have both turned 18 makes the marriage legally valid in the eyes of the court, which means that it can no longer be annulled.
Inability to Provide Consent
Marriages can also be annulled if a court determines that one spouse was unable to give consent due to mental incapacity or mental illness.
The Legal Effects of Annulment
If the court grants an annulment, it technically means that your marriage was never legally valid and thus never existed in a legal sense. Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean that an annulment allows you to avoid the hassles that come with a divorce, such as child support and custody. Annulment legitimizes any children that you and your spouse had together, meaning that they you share equal financial responsibility for raising them. In fact, the court’s ruling will also specifically include decisions related to custody, child support and visitation rights.
If you feel that you have legal grounds for an annulment, the very first thing you need to do is contact a Nassau County annulment lawyer. By seeking the assistance of a professional lawyer, you’ll not only make the entire process go more smoothly, but you’ll also improve your chances of having the annulment granted so that you can finally move on with your life.
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