We often read about celebrities getting marriages annulled, from Renee Zellweger and Kenny Chesney (four month marriage), to Carmen Electra and Dennis Rodman (nine day marriage). Celebrities make it look easy: if the marriage is only a few days or months long, it can be annulled. Unfortunately, in New Jersey, it is not that simple and a marriage cannot be annulled just because it was short-lived or spontaneous.
An annulment is different from a divorce. A judgment of divorce signifies the end to a valid marriage. An annulment is the formal recognition that a marriage was never valid to begin with. If an annulment is granted, it is as if the marriage itself never occurred. Annulments are usually granted when it can be shown that the person against whom annulment is sought committed a fraud which goes to the essentials of the marriage.
There is a specific law that governs the standard for granting an annulment in New Jersey. In New Jersey, an annulment may be granted in the following situations:
One of the spouses has another spouse living at the time of this marriage.
The couple is related to each other within the degrees prohibited by law (in other words, the relationship is based on incest).
One or both of the spouses were at the time of marriage physically and incurably impotent, so long as the party seeking the annulment was unaware of the impotency or incapability at the time of the marriage, and has not subsequently ratified the marriage.
One person or both of the spouses lacked capacity to marry because of mental condition, or the influence of intoxicants, drugs, or similar agents; or where there was a lack of mutual assent to the marital relationship; duress; or fraud as to the essentials of marriage; and has not subsequently ratified the marriage.
The wife or husband was under the age of 18 at the time of the marriage, unless such marriage was confirmed by her or him after arriving at such age.
If you are unhappy about the choice you made to marry, you should look to the annulment statute first to determine whether your marriage may be annulled. If your marriage does not fit into one of the above categories, though, you must proceed with filing for a formal divorce.