Annulments in New Jersey

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.

 

Grounds for Divorce in New Jersey

In my last blog post, I noted that “fault” is less important in New Jersey divorces than most people would expect.  Today, I am going to briefly review the major grounds for divorce in New Jersey.

#1: Irreconcilable Differences 

By far the most popular grounds for divorce in New Jersey–despite the fact that it was only recently recognized by the state–irreconcilable differences is essentially an expedited form of “No Fault” Divorce.  The major statutory requirement is that “irreconcilable differences” have occurred, causing the breakdown of the marriage, that there is no prospect of reconciliation, and that these irreconcilable differences have been ongoing for at least six months.

Only one party need seek a divorce in New Jersey–agreement to a divorce is not required.  In other words, you’re spouse can’t deny your filing a divorce complaint in New Jersey.  Of course, they can tie up the divorce process forcing a trial.

#2: No Fault Divorce 

Although irreconcilable differences complaints are essentially used as a form of no fault divorce, New Jersey does offer a purer form of “No Fault Divorce”.  The statute for No Fault Divorce in New Jersey requires eighteen or more consecutive months of a husband and wife living separate and apart, “in different habitations”, and with no reasonable prospect for reconciliation.  As the requirements of a no fault divorce are difficult to obtain; today this form of divorce is rarely utilized in New Jersey divorce courts.

#3: Extreme Mental or Physical Cruelty

The rest of the grounds for divorce are “fault-based.”  A claim of extreme mental or physical cruelty requires proof of “any physical or mental cruelty which endangers the safety or health of the plaintiff or makes it improper or unreasonable to expect the Plaintiff to continue to cohabit with the Defendant.”

#4: Adultery 

Clients often ask about using adultery as a grounds for divorce.  The problem is then establishing the adultery through circumstantial or other evidence.  Moreover, the suspected “partner” in the alleged infidelity must then be named in the Complaint–and served as a co-respondend to the divorce.  Using adultery as a grounds for divorce in New Jersey is often so time-consuming and financially draining as to not be worth the effort.  Furthermore, the benefits of an adultery claim are, in most cases, minimal.

#5: Other Grounds for Divorce

Other New Jersey grounds for divorce are available, although in practice they are exceedingly rare.  Some examples of these “other” New Jersey grounds for divorce include:

  • Desertion
  • Deviant Sexual Behavior
  • Imprisonment
  • Institutionalization
  • Habitual Drunkenness or Drug Habituation
  • And more.
Of course, one need not be constrained to just one divorce count when filing a Complaint for Divorce in New Jersey.  In some instances several counts for divorce will be included in a divorce complaint.

Conclusion 

Every case is fact-sensative, so you should review all of the available grounds for divorce with your attorney to ensure you select the proper grounds for YOUR case.

 

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.

"Fault" Less Important in New Jersey Divorces Than One Might Think (New Jersey No-Fault Divorce)

By: Carl A. Taylor III

I write this post as Hurricane Irene batters the northeast, and tries to flood my basement.  My night has consisted of my Wife and I taking shifts taking pales of water to our utility sink, aiding a sump pump that’s quite literally “in over its head.” I am thankful this is the worst we have had to endure from Irene. But perhaps it’s only natural, given these conditions, to write about the idea of “fault”–and how sometimes assigning blame is a less rewarding enterprise than one might first believe.

“Fault” Is Less Important in a New Jersey Divorce Than One Might First Believe

During an inital consultation, many clients wish to focus on the “fault” of the other party.  “My Husband is a no-good drunken louse.”  Or:  “My Wife is having an affair and emotionally checked out of our marriage years ago.”

While it is understandable why so many New Jersey Divorce clients wish to focus on blame or fault for the breakdown of their marriage leading to divorce, notions of blame or fault often plays a smaller role in the outcome of the divorce than the clients or those unfamiliar with divorce in New Jersey would think.

New Jersey No-Fault Divorce

Although this was not always the case, today, New Jersey is a no-fault divorce state.  This means that, practically speaking, it is possible to seek and be granted a divorce in New Jersey without having to prove fault.  Although “fault” based grounds such as extreme cruelty and adultery are available, most New Jersey Divorce Complaints are filed as “irreconcilable differences.”

“Fault” and  New Jersey Divorce

This “no-fault” philosophy also permeates the disposition of a New Jersey divorce case.  Therefore oftentimes, there may be little or no benefit to filing a fault-based divorce rather than a no-fault divorce/irreconcilable differences divorce complaint.

New Jersey law is written so that “fault” will not generally play a role in determining alimony or equitable distribution.  The example I always use is this: one party could have been the best spouse in the world.  Someone who is unquestionably moral and wonderful in every way.  Meanwhile, the other party could have been a philandering alcoholic, with a bad temper and an all-around poor disposition.  And yet, when it comes time to determine each party’s share of equitable distribution, none of that would likely matter.

With a no-fault mentality (yes, even when fault can be proven) prevelent throughout New Jersey divorce law, there is often little benefit to trying to paint the other party as a “bad” guy or girl.  Of course, in limited circumstances–such as when custody is in issue–notions of “fault” and “character” may be of supreme importance.

Also, please note that every case is fact-specific, so never assume “fault” or “character” will not be important in your case.  Whether these concepts/issues will be of significant legal importance or not, it is  important to review the reasons for the divorce, and any “fault/character” issues (for either party) with your attorney.  Personality and the marital dynamic will likely be important in crafting a case-specific legal and/or negotiation strategy.

Conclusion

It is often impossible to separate the emotional from the legal in a New Jersey divorce case.  All such issues should be reviewed with your attorney.  Just note that fault will often play less of a role i

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.

n the outcome of a New Jersey divorce than one might initially believe.

 

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