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Marriages can be brought to an end in several ways. By far, the two most common ways for marriages to end are when one spouse dies, or when they divorce. However, there is a third way for marriages to end that many people overlook: Annulment.


An annulment, unlike a divorce, ends a marriage with a court order that determines that the marriage never existed, in the first place. This is in contrast to a divorce, which merely ends the marriage and treats the couples as having been married up to the date of the divorce, but as being married no longer.

Getting a marriage annulled, rather than divorcing your partner, can be a good option if you want to move on with your life without having to deal with the social stigma of having divorced your spouse, or if you are so uncomfortable with your current living situation that you want to treat it as if it never happened.

Grounds for Annulment

Just like there are only a handful of grounds for a divorce in New York, there are also only a handful of grounds for annulment in our state, as well. However, these grounds are radically different than those that allow a couple to divorce. While the grounds for divorce look primarily to the acts of you and your spouse during the marriage, the five permissible grounds for an annulment are more concerned with how the marriage happened and whether it legally should have happened, in the first place.

  • Sufficient Age to Marry

The first ground for an annulment in the state of New York is that one, or both, of the spouses involved in the marriage, were not old enough to marry. In New York, both spouses have to be adults – over the age of 18 – in order to have the legal capacity to marry. If either spouse was not of age when the marriage happened, then that marriage can be annulled.

There is a complication to those grounds for annulment: Even if one of the spouses was underaged at the time of the marriage, if both spouses continued to live together of their own accord after they both had turned 18, then this ground for an annulment is waived.

  • Mental Incapacity to Marry

Like with age, the law does not allow people who are mentally incompetent to bind themselves to a contract. This applies to family law by making any marriage a voidable one, if one of the spouses did not have the mental capacity to agree to the marriage.

  • Incurable Mental Illness

Another grounds for the annulment of a marriage is if one of the spouses in the marriage has been deemed incurably mentally ill for a period of more than five years. If this is the case, then the laws of New York allow the other spouse to file for an annulment to their marriage.

  • Impotence

A marriage can also be annulled if one of the spouses is found, during the marriage, to be physically unable to have sexual intercourse. This ground for annulment is an old one and is based on the idea that marriage is, at its core, a device for a man and a woman to have children. However, like many old ideas, it still persists in our laws, allowing one spouse to annul a marriage if it is found that his or her spouse is unable to have intercourse.

  • Fraud, Duress, or Coercion

The last ground for the annulment of a marriage in New York is that the marriage was the result of fraud, duress, or coercion.

Marriages have to be consensual for them to be legally binding. If they are not the result of both spouses agreeing to be married to one another, then the marriage can be annulled if one of them brings it to court.

However, both duress and fraud can be waived. Duress is not a valid ground for an annulment if the parties voluntarily lived together before the marriage occurred, as this is a telltale sign that the spouse seeking an annulment wanted to have an intimate relationship with the other spouse. Additionally, fraud is not a ground for an annulment if both spouses continued to voluntarily live together after the fraud was discovered.

New York Family Law and Divorce Lawyer

If you are interested in pursuing an annulment of your marriage, get in contact with the divorce attorneys at the Bombardo Law Office P.C. in Syracuse, New York. Contact the firm online, or call them at (315) 488-5544.

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