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Annulments in New York

Annulments are commonly sought when a marriage has lasted for a short period of time and there are no children of the marriage. With the passage of the “no fault” grounds for a divorce, annulments are less sought out.  However, if you do wish to pursue an annulment, here is what you need to know.

There are five grounds for an annulment of a marriage. (1) failure of a party to have reached the age of consent; (2) lack of understanding of our actions (generally seen when one party is mentally challenged in some fashion); physical incapacity to consummate the marriage; (4) consent to marry was obtained by force, duress or fraud; and (5) an incurable mental illness for five or more years. The important thing to remember here is that you need more than you and your spouse to agree to an annulment.  You will need corroborating evidence to bolster your case. In other words, you’ll need third party testimony to assisting you in your annulment action.

The Court of Appeals in Brillis v. Brillis, addressed an action for an annulment based on fraud.   In this case, the husband was an immigrant and his visa was about to expire and he had to leave the country.  He convinced his wife to marry him with promises of returning and remarrying within the Greek Orthodox Church, to which they were both members. He also promised to provide for her and live together as husband and wife.  The parties then married in a civil ceremony.  Upon the husband’s return, he did not follow through on his promises to get married in the church.    The Court held that when a person, in order to induce a marriage, makes a promise of a subsequent religious ceremony, without intending to keep it, an annulment will be granted where there was no cohabitation and consummation of the marriage.

Annulments are hard to obtain, especially where the marriage was consummated.  The previous example shows how it may be done however, as one would imagine, there will rarely be a scenario which fits the Brillis fact pattern.

With the no fault divorce statutes, and the stringent requirements for an annulment, you may not satisfy the grounds for an annulment and may be better off seeking a divorce through the new no fault grounds.

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