When a marriage dissolves, the union usually end in divorce. This is not always the case, though. A legal separation would be one alternative to divorce. In other instances, a marriage could end through an annulment, a completely different legal dissolution than a divorce or a legal separation. With a divorce, a marriage no longer legally exists. With an annulment, the marriage never existed. The courts render the marriage “null and void.” This means the marriage never existed in the first place. With a divorce, the dissolved marriage did previously exist since it was a valid union. Divorce decrees simply state both spouses cease to be married to one another.
The egregious conduct of a spouse could legally allow a spouse to go beyond filing for divorce and seek the erasure of the marriage through an annulment. A resident of Staten Island concerned about filing for an annulment might be confused over how the process actually works. Questions about the differences between an annulment and a divorce likely exist as well. Direct questions about a spouse’s particular situation should be directed to a qualified lawyer. General answers about annulments in New York can be found in the state’s civil code.
Annulments and Divorce: The Legal Bar is High
Annulments are not as common as divorces due to the very limited circumstances in which an annulment may be approved by the courts. In the state of New York, certain circumstances must be in place for an annulment decision to be rendered. Common reasons for divorce such as adultery, mental or physical cruelty and marital breakdown would not be sufficient to receive an order of annulment. Fraud, however, could constitute the basis for an annulment.
If a spouse turns out to be someone who has been living under an assumed identity, he/she committed fraud when entering into the marriage. Granted, incidents in which someone married under a false identity, are not exactly common. The same could be said of someone who remarries without ever dissolving the original marriage or marriages. Regardless, both scenarios open the legal doors for a judgment of annulment.
Other grounds for an annulment could be forcing someone into a marriage or marrying an underage person. While no statute of limitations exists for an annulment, if certain circumstances change, seeking an annulment won’t be possible. For example, if someone who is underage marries, an annulment becomes impossible when the individual reaches legal age and is still cohabitating with the spouse.
Under New York law, various other circumstances may allow for a credible filing of an annulment. Consulting with an attorney remains a reliable means to determine whether seeking an annulment makes legal sense.
Issues Beyond the Annulment
An annulment may completely erase the marriage, this doesn’t mean both parties can fully walk away from the past even after the nullification. Based on the circumstances, completely walking away from any association with one another might not even be possible. Several serious issues that won’t go away even when a marriage has been voided. Issues surrounding child custody, alimony and the division of assets amassed jointly during the marriage may need to be sorted out.
Only a qualified attorney would be able to effectively address matters such as these. Meeting with an attorney to discuss the full scope of seeking an annulment entails discussing the approach to be taken in court regarding both parties’ responsibilities in the aftermath of the decree.
Can I legally get engaged before the annulment is complete?
Getting an annulment or a divorce is a huge decision. For many people, the main draw of this choice is that it allows them to move on and find a new relationship. However, there can be downsides to getting involved too soon after a marriage ended. As a result, many people wonder if they can get engaged before their annulment or divorce is complete. Although this is a legal decision, it may not be a good one for your current marriage, your future marriage, or your own happiness.
In most cases, people can indeed become engaged before any kind of legal separation process is complete. This is because engagement is not a legal process. There is no paperwork and no license to be filed. Engagement is simply an agreement with another person to get married at some point in the future. While an engagement is a kind of contract, it is not illegal to get engaged while still technically legally married to someone else. However, this does not mean that doing so will have no consequences.
There are a few instances where a person can find themselves in legal trouble for getting engaged before their annulment or divorce is complete. First, if the other person does not know that they are unavailable for marriage, this could be interpreted as fraud. If your fiance(e) gave up their job or other opportunities with the assumption that you were free to marry right now, they may be able to sue you for expenses as well as keep the ring due to a breach of contract. Courts may consider this a breach of contract even if your fiance(e) breaks up the engagement, as you were not honest with them from the beginning.
There is an important legal issue known as “breach of promise to marry.” These lawss go back to the mid-19th century and are only rarely enforced in modern times. However, there is a possibility that a person could successfully be sued for violating these. These state that a promise to marry is one in which both people agree, with no written contract needed. As with most contracts, people who were minors at the time that they made the contract can void them. In general, both people must be free to marry (i.e., single, divorced, or annulled) and fully intend to follow through with the legal marriage. Being married to another person is considered a breech of contract unless the other fiance(e) knew that this was the case.
Last, getting engaged may jeopardize your current annulment. An annulment is different from a divorce in that the marriage is declared invalid. Rather than being divorced, it is like the marriage never happened at all legally. However, there may still be property or children to be litigated in the case of an annulment. Getting engaged to another person will anger your spouse and make it harder for you to work together. In addition, it may look bad to courts who are charged with approving the annulment and helping to divide any mutual assets. In general, it is better to wait to make major commitments until you have been completely freed of your old ones.
Many people seeking annulment wish to move on as quickly as possible. This is particularly true if you have already found someone that you believe is the perfect future spouse for you. However, it is better both legally, ethically, and emotionally if you want to get engaged until after your other marriage is completely over. While there are usually no consequences, there are still possible emotional and legal ramifications.