New York Divorce Guide


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Q. What does an marriage annulment do in New York State that a divorce does not?
A divorce decree ends the marriage between two people, determines how any support might occur between the parties, and how any marital assets might be divided. An annulment is a decree that the marriage never was, and never should have been.

Q. How does one know if they qualify to file for a marital annulment, or whether they need to go straight to a divorce petition? An action for annulment in New York must begin within the first three years following the marriage. Grounds for annulment include:

  • Former husband or wife living
  • Consent by force, duress or fraud – a marriage that has been obtained by fraud or misrepresentation
  • Insanity – If your spouse is suffering from insanity for the past 5 years and it is deemed incurable
  • Underage – one or both were under 18 years old at the time of marriage
  • Impotence – a physical disability or incapacity that doesn’t allow a person to participate sexually in the marriage, or
  • Consanguinity – marrying someone too closely related to you

If you were married below the age of 18, and you both reach that age while living openly with each other, you lose the right to use being a minor (under age 18) as a ground for annulment. Fraud can be eliminated as a ground if, once the party discovers the fraud, they continue living with the other spouse. In similar fashion, a marriage under duress can no longer be claimed as a ground for annulment if the parties openly lived together prior to  the marriage.

[N.Y. Dom. Rel. Law §140(b-e); N.Y. Dom. Rel. Law §24; and 48 N.Y. Jur. 2d Domestic Relations §2441}
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Actions for annulment can take place at any time during the life of the person who is the target of the annulment action.

[N.Y. Dom. Rel. Law – Article 5 – Section 7, 24, 140 ]

Situations where you can lose the right to claim grounds for an annulment

  • Underage marriage – If you married below age 18 and continue living together after you both turn 18, you can lose the ability to claim underage as a ground for an annulment
  • Marriage by fraud – If the injured spouse discovers s/he was defrauded into marriage and then continues to cohabitate with the other party, the injured spouse may well lose the ability to use fraud as a ground
  • Claim of incurable insanity – Should the insane party have a period of soundness of mind and the other party continue living with the afflicted party, the right to claim incurable insanity can be compromised.

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