Dear Cassie: What are the grounds for an annulment, as opposed to a divorce, in New Jersey?

-M.M.

Dear M.M.:  

Annulments (also known as “judgments of nullity”) can be granted for the following reasons:

  • Either of the parties is already married at the time of the marriage.
  • The parties are related, i.e., they are within the degrees prohibited by law. 
  • The marriage cannot be consummated (As set forth in the annulment statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:34-1, “The parties, or either of them, were at the time of marriage physically and incurably impotent, provided the party making the application shall have been ignorant of such impotency or incapability at the time of the marriage, and has not subsequently ratified the marriage.”)
  • Either or both of the parties are not competent to marry, or were under duress to get married, or were defrauded “as to the essentials of marriage.”  In this case, the complaining party cannot have subsequently “ratified” the marriage by failing to take immediate steps to separate.   
  • A spouse was under the age of 18 at the time of the marriage.  

In contrast to divorce, an annulment renders the marriage void.  In that event, no alimony or equitable distribution can be ordered.  

However, because of the extremely narrow grounds under which an annulment can be sought, annulments are extremely rare events.  As with divorce matters, annulments can be contested by the responding party.  

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Cassie Murphy is a divorce and family law Partner with the Law Offices of Paone, Zaleski & Murphy, with offices in Red Bank and Woodbridge.