Can there be an annulment or a marriage be declared void in New York?

Yes, void marriages can be decreed a non-event or an annulment can be granted of a marriage if certain specific grounds are met. The law on annulments is contained in the New York Domestic Relations Law Article 9.  If someone was still married, and their spouse still living, when the next marriage takes place, that next marriage is what is called voidable.  A case needs to be started, in a New York Supreme Court, to have the marriage declared void in that situation.  Of course bigamy is also a felony in this state, but the action in Supreme Court to have the marriage voided is a civil case, not a criminal proceeding.  This action can be started by either the husband or wife in that second marriage or by the first wife or husband.

If one of the parties to the marriage was not old enough to consent to getting married, an annulment can be granted.  It should be noted that this action can only be started by the person who was under the age of consent, or someone acting on his or her behalf (like a parent or guardian), and not by a party who was over the legal age of consent at the time of the marriage.  Also, if the underage person becomes legal age, and then voluntarily lives with the other as wife or husband, afterward then they can not maintain an action for an annulment.

A relative of someone that is mentally retarded and has an interest in annulling the marriage of the retarded person, can initiate the action during the life of either the wife or husband.  Annulment cases can proceed by a relative of a mentally ill person, if one of the parties to the marriage was mentally ill, while the illness continues, or after the mentally ill person dies while the illness continues.  If the mentally ill person becomes well, that person can proceed with an annulment, however, only if they did not feely live together as husband and wife after the formerly ill person became well.  The spouse of the mentally ill person, that was unaware of the illness when they got married, can start an annulment if the spouse was in that condition when the marriage took place.  These cases can be brought by someone called a “next of friend”, in some instances, if no relative starts an annulment on behalf of the mentally ill or retarded person.  Next of friends are someone that acts on behalf of the incapacitated person, like a parent, relative, or guardian, but does not have an official legal relationship to that person.

Marriages can be annulled on the grounds that one side of the marriage was physically unable to consummate the marriage.  This is called physical incapacity. In other words if one of them is unable to have sexual relations with the other there is incapacity.  This action can be initiated by the person married to the incapable spouse or the incapacitated spouse if that spouse was not aware of the their inability at the time of the marriage or they did not know the inability could not be cured.  The incapacity must still be in existence and not curable when the case begins.  There is a five year statute of limitations from the date of the marriage to bring an annulment on these grounds.

Marriages by duress or where someone entered into it by force can also be annulled by the victim spouse.  If one of the spouse’s was fraudulently induced into the marriage they can proceed with an annulment if they start it within the time as dictated by the statute of limitation for fraud cases.  If the parties voluntarily lived together as husband and wife, after the discovery of the fraud, or after the marriage by duress, the marriage cannot be annulled.  Parents, guardians, or relatives can start the action on behalf of the victim under these grounds as well.

The final reason listed in the statute for annulments is if one of the parties has a mental illness that cannot be cured for at least 5 years. Either the husband or wife can proceed under these grounds.  Sometimes matrimonial cases are initiated and grounds are pled in the alternative, such as for an annulment or a divorce. Feel free to click around our blog,website or call for more information about any matrimonial or family law topics or call us to discuss.  The initial consultation is free.  We look forward to hearing from you.

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