When a married couple decide they want to end their marriage most will plan to divorce but in some cases, an annulment could be a better option. An annulment is a court procedure that dissolves a marriage as though it never happened. There are different reasons for choosing to annul a marriage but not everyone is eligible for an annulment.

Annulments can be done civilly or through a church. The first requires a court hearing and would by granted by the state if you qualify. In order to get an annulment one spouse has to have lied or concealed a truth about something essential, a spouse cannot physically have sexual intercourse, and the other spouse didn’t know it when they got married, spouses are too closely related by blood so that their marriage is illegal under the laws of the state where they married, a spouse was already married to someone else, spouse is under the age of consent, a spouse was too impaired by alcohol or drugs at the time of the wedding, or there was force involved.

Most of the time, annulments are chosen after shorter duration marriages making them faster and easier because there was no time to accumulate assets or debt. Long term marriages can be annulled and the court would mediate similar to a standard divorce in regards to assets, debt, property, and children. For religious purposes, a couple may obtain a religious annulment after obtaining a civil divorce. This option may be chosen in order to have a future marriage recognized by the church.

However, just because you have an annulment does not mean that you do not have any financial rights or obligations. You may continue to have financial rights like the right to alimony and the right to a fair division of your marital property under New York law. It’s important to get advice from a family lawyer in New York before you get your marriage annulled. You do not want your financial rights to be comprised even if the marriage is annulled. There are rights that you must protect.

When the court establishes that your marriage is null and void by issuing a Declaration of Nullity, it will also seek to establish certain financial rights and responsibilities of the partners. That can include the right of one spouse to seek and receive spousal maintenance and alimony payments.

The parent who gets primary custody of any children that may have been born during the marriage has the right to child support payments to support these children. The partners may also continue to have rights to child custody, and a visitation schedule for the noncustodial parent. Additionally, the marital property will also be divided between the partners under New York laws.

It is always in your best interest to obtain a Westchester County attorney who specializes in family law to guide you through the process of dissolving your marriage. Consult with a lawyer to see if divorce or annulment is the best option for you.

By: Kimberly Pelesz

Family law and criminal defense attorney Kimberly A. Pelesz received a B.S. degree magna cum laude and an M.P.A. degree summa cum laude from Binghamton University. She earned her J.D. from Pace University School of Law in White Plains, where she was selected for Phi Alpha Delta. Her charitable activities include work with My Sisters’ Place in White Plains and the Westchester County District Attorney’s Humane Education Taskforce.

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