Divorce vs. Annulment: What Is the Difference and Why It Matters
Through courtship, engagement, and marriage, separation is often never even on the mind. When a relationship deteriorates to the point that it becomes clear a couple just won’t be able to stay together, it is often the case that both parties must learn complex terminology and laws that they never imagined needing.
As a divorce lawyer, I am here to help my Jersey City, NJ, clients through the separation process as painlessly as possible. Here, we discuss the difference between a divorce and annulment.
The Definition of Divorce
The legal term for a divorce in New Jersey is “dissolution.” You can file for a no-fault divorce in New Jersey, meaning you do not need to provide any reason for the divorce besides the fact that there are irreconcilable differences between spouses that will certainly not be resolved.
You can also specify reasons for your divorce, such as having lived apart for 1.5 years or more, or if your partner behaved with extreme cruelty, committed adultery, is institutionalized, or is incarcerated for a significant length of time.
Regardless of the specific reason for divorce, it is key to understand that a divorce processed through the courts terminates a legal marriage.
Annulment in New Jersey
On the other hand, an annulment is obtained to dissolve a marriage that was never legal. The conclusion of an annulment means legally enforcing that the marriage never happened, since it never should have.
It may sound shocking to hear that some marriages in this day and age are illegal, but there are actually many reasons for this.
Several potential reasons for annulment revolve around deception by a partner. You may seek to annul your marriage after finding out that your husband or wife concealed a major negative fact about themselves, like a felony conviction for a violent crime. Another case where an annulment may be appropriate is if your partner was legally married to someone else at the time that they were married to you.
There are also causes for annulment that may arise for reasons other than deception. A marriage may be annulled if the husband is incurably impotent, if the wife was unaware of this prior to the wedding. Other causes of annulment include a partner being forced into the marriage, a partner not being mentally sound at the time of marriage, or the marriage being between two individuals who are too closely related.
Why Do These Differences Matter?
These differences are very important for the process that occurs after a separation regarding property division and the raising of children.
Following a divorce in New Jersey, all assets are divided in a way that is equitable, if not 50/50. After an annulment, there is no legal property division process since the marriage is now viewed as having never occurred. Therefore, coming away with the assets and property you need may require an attorney who is deeply knowledgeable about contract law and other related matters, since the traditional division process does not apply.
If you have children with your ex-partner, you will still go through the legal processes for determining child custody, support, and visitation. Crucially, the court is more likely to rule against a deceptive parent whose behavior was grounds for annulment in these situations.
Still Confused? I’m Here to Help
As a proud member of the American Bar Association and the New Jersey State Bar Association, I have the knowledge and resources to help determine if you should file for an annulment or divorce and the capability to help lead you through all proceedings. Reach out now to discuss your future.