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Understanding the Difference Between Annulment and Divorce

By The Law Offices of Paul A. Boronow, PC on November 14, 2014

In New York, an annulment is one way to end a marriage. A divorce is another. If you believe it is time to end your marriage, which avenue applies to your situation – and which should you choose?

A “divorce” ends a marriage that was made legally. The court acknowledges that the spouses once had a legal marriage, but that they have chosen to dissolve this legal relationship and go their separate ways.

An “annulment” is a court action that declares a marriage “null and void.” Rather than acknowledging that a legal marriage did exist but is now over, the court declares that no legal marriage ever existed in the first place. However, any children born during a marriage that is later annulled are considered to be born in wedlock.

New York law recognizes two types of annulments: “void” and “voidable.” A “void” marriage can never be considered legal, because they violate state law in some way. They include marriages between first-degree family members, marriages made when one party is legally married to another, and a marriage solemnized by someone without the authority to do so.

A “voidable” marriage can be annulled, but it does not have to be; the parties can also choose to stay married if they wish. A court judgment is required to annul the marriage. Marriages made when one or both parties were under the age of consent, are suffering from ongoing mental incapacity, or were incapable of consenting at the time are considered voidable, as are marriages made under duress and marriages made when one or both partners are physically incapable of having sexual intercourse.

Although annulment and divorce both end a marriage, they do so in two legally distinct ways. Since the choice can also have implications in certain religions as well, it’s important to understand when each one applies. Your experienced Long Island divorce and annulment lawyer can help you determine what your particular options are.

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