Heidi E. Opinsky

The Law Offices of Heidi E. Opinsky, LLC

Are you currently considering a divorce?
Schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your options.

Marriage Annulment In CT & NY

There are some situations in which neither a divorce nor a legal separation is appropriate. This is particularly the case with prohibited marriages, such as those that are consanguineous or those that occurred as the result of coercion, etc. Here’s what to know about marriage annulment in CT and NY and how veteran divorce attorney Heidi E. Opinsky can assist you.  

What Is a Marriage Annulment? 

An annulment is a legally binding decision that declares a marriage invalid, indicating that the partnership was not recognized by law. Although the marriage is considered “erased,” the original records do remain on file. In order to obtain an annulment, you must meet certain criteria. You won’t be able to get an annulment just because you later regret getting married soon after the wedding. 

Annulment functions as a means to recognize that your marriage was originally invalid and free you of any responsibilities you may have incurred as a result of it. Following an annulment, each spouse typically returns to the style of living they had before the marriage.

How Is An Annulment Different From a Divorce? 

Annulments are frequently portrayed in the media as morning-after remedy for an impromptu Vegas wedding. This isn’t necessarily an accurate portrayal; annulments are far more complicated. In fact, divorces are typically more prevalent than annulments, which have strict eligibility requirements and time constraints. 

Also, it’s important to note that getting an annulment isn’t always preferable to getting a divorce. If eligible, couples who could either divorce or get an annulment often seek an annulment instead to avoid dividing assets or paying alimony. Child support is generally heard separately and is unaffected by whether a couple seeks a divorce or an annulment. 

The primary distinction between an annulment and a divorce is that a divorce terminates an already existing, legal marriage, whereas an annulment declares that the marriage never actually existed. While an  annulment must be filed on specific grounds, there is no justification required to get a divorce. Both Connecticut and New York are no-fault divorce states. To file a no-fault divorce, you would generally file on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. 

How to Get a Marriage Annulment In CT or NY 

In order to obtain an annulment, you must submit a petition with the clerk of the court that will have jurisdiction over your case. This petition describes the legal basis for the annulment request and includes information about the relationship. This is where you will need to explain how you have grounds for an annulment and meet the eligibility and residency requirements of your state. 

Once this petition is filed, a  deputy sheriff will usually inform the other spouse by serving them the annulment papers. The spouse can then submit a response either agreeing or disagreeing with the petition’s arguments.

Whether or not your spouse contests the annulment, a judge family court judge will have to decide if you have the appropriate grounds for an annulment. Both spouses are required to attend this court hearing. If the judge grants an annulment in your case, both you and your spouse will be considered single and are free to remarry if you so choose. 

What Are the Grounds For An Annulment? 

A marriage annulment can be issued on several different grounds under New York or Connecticut law, including: 

  • One of the spouses did not have the cognitive capacity to agree to the marriage
  • One of the spouses was intoxicated by alcohol or drugs 
  • The marriage was forced onto one partner by the other
  • One spouse defrauded the other for a purpose, such as to obtain a green card or avoid deportation
  • One of the spouses was still officially married to another person
  • One of the spouses was a juvenile who was unable to obtain parental consent to marry
  • The spouses later discover they are related by blood or adoption 

While the above should not be considered a comprehensive list, there are few other legitimate reasons a family court will grant an annulment. 

When You Can File an Annulment 

The time in which you have to file for an annulment generally depends on the grounds you plan to file under. 

90 days (3 months) 

One spouse must file for an annulment within 90 days on the grounds of drunkenness, mental incompetence, fraud, or coercion.

One year (12 months) 

One spouse may file for an annulment within one year of the date of the marriage on the grounds of physical incapacity (meaning the other spouse is unable to engage in intercourse) 

Prior to a minor spouse’s 18th birthday 

If the issue is that one spouse was a minor under the age of 18 who did not obtain parental consent to marry, a petition for an annulment must be filed before their 18th birthday. However, it is the minor who must file for the annulment or their parent or guardian can file. 

Alternatively, the bigamous spouse can also divorce their first spouse. Once a divorce is granted for their previous marriage, the second marriage automatically becomes valid. 

Any point during the course of the marriage or up to three years following one spouse’s death

You may file a petition for an annulment on the grounds of bigamy following the discovery of your spouse’s other marriage at any time during the marriage and for a period of up to three years following the death of the bigamous spouse. 

What Is a Religious Annulment? 

Some people choose to file for an annulment instead of a divorce when their spiritual beliefs or religion oppose or outright prohibit getting a divorce. A religious annulment, on the other hand, is something entirely different that is not overseen by state courts; rather, it is a symbolic undertaking within the church or organization to which you belong. A religious annulment also declares that the marriage was illegitimate from the start. 

This may or may not afford you the ability to marry again in the future depending on the individual beliefs of your specific institution. You can obtain both a religious annulment and a legal annulment, or just one or the other. However, if you obtain only a religious annulment, you are generally still considered legally married. 

While it’s typical to get a legal annulment before getting a religious one, you’ll need to check with your religious organization for specifics on how you should get started. In the Catholic Church, a tribunal usually has the last word, and religious counseling is frequently necessary prior to obtaining an annulment.

What Happens After An Annulment? 

State divorce laws regarding property and children do not apply to annulled marriages since they are rendered legally invalid. If the couple have children, custody and visitation decisions will be made similarly to decisions made in cases where the parents were never married. 

In most cases, the judge who grants your annulment will make the judgement retroactive to before the marriage, eliminating any power the court has to split property or make custody determinations. A separate hearing is usually required for custody, child support, and visitation rulings. 

In regards to equitable distribution, it generally doesn’t apply in cases of annulment. A judge will often restore each spouse’s financial condition to what it was prior to the marriage, including both assets and debts. This means that issues regarding shared debts and property must be handled by the former spouses on their own. 

Upon the award of an annulment, any prenuptial or postnuptial agreement is also considered void. However, in some cases a judge will make property division decisions, particularly if the couple were married for a significant length of time and were able to amass property together prior to seeking an annulment. 

Reach Out To a Veteran Connecticut Divorce Attorney As Soon As Possible For Help WIth Your Annulment 

Heidi Opinsky is an experienced New York and Connecticut divorce lawyer who can help you determine if an annulment is right for you. Whether you get an annulment, divorce, or legal separation, Attorney Opinsky can provide you with the comprehensive legal support you need during family disputes. Call today to schedule a consultation to discuss your case in detail by dialing 203-653-3542.