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Jury Trial

Like a divorce, an annulment is a way to end a marriage. However, there are significant differences between the process for getting a divorce and a process for getting an annulment. With both annulments and divorces, there must be a statutory reason for initiating the action. According to NY Dom Rel Law § 170, there are 7 legal grounds for getting a divorce, including that the marriage is irretrievably broken, which is the “no fault” grounds for getting a divorce. To get an annulment, the marriage must fit the statutory criteria for being voidable. The reasons that a marriage is voidable are very different from the grounds for a divorce. Another difference is procedural. With an action for divorce, the parties do not have the right to a jury trial, except for on the issue of the grounds for divorce. Once the grounds for divorce are established, a judge decides the remaining issues. If the divorce is uncontested, then the judge will not have any issues to decide. On the other hand, according to NY Dom Rel Law § 1 43, in an action for an annulment the parties have the right to a jury trial on the issues. If you are considering an annulment or a divorce, contact an experienced New York divorce lawyer who understands both the substantive and procedural legalities related to ending a marriage.

Voidable marriages

According to NY Dom Rel Law § 7, marriages that can be annulled include:

  • Under age 18. If one or both of the parties is under the age 18 years, the marriage is voidable.
  • Mental incapacity. If a person was mentally incapacitated at the time the parties married, the marriage is voidable.
  • Inability to consummate marriage. If a party is not able to consummate marriage by having sexual relations, the marriage is voidable.
  • Duress, force, or fraud. If one or both of the parties was forced to marry or if fraud was involved to induce someone to marry, the marriage is voidable.
  • Incurable mental illness. If one of the parties suffers from an incurable mental illness, the marriage is voidable.
Action for annulment

Once it has been established that the marriage fits the criteria for a voidable marriage, then an action for annulment can be filed. If consent to the marriage was obtained by duress, force, or fraud, then the party who did not commit the bad act can file for an annulment. If the issue was that at least one of the parties was under age 18, then either that person or his or her relatives can bring an action for annulment. And, if the issue is lack of mental capacity or inability to consummate, then either spouse can seek an annulment. A relative of the spouse who lacks mental capacity also has standing to file an action for annulment.

Regardless of which spouse files for the annulment, he or she must arrange for the other spouse to be served with a copy of the petition for annulment. About 30 days after the petition for annulment is filed, a hearing will be scheduled. According to NY Dom Rel Law § 143 in an action for annulment there is a right to a trial by jury. After the judge hears the evidence presented by both parties, he or she will decide whether to grant the annulment and any other issues related to the voiding of the marriage.

Note that while the effect of an annulment is that the marriage would have been declared invalid, an annulment does not impact rights and obligations related child support and child custody.

Related Statutory Provisions
  1. Action for judgment declaring nullity of void marriages or annulling voidable marriage: New York Domestic Relations Law, section 140
  2. Dismissal of complaint in action by next friend to annul a marriage: New York Domestic Relations Law, section 142
  3. Proof required: New York Domestic Relations Law, section 144
  4. Judgment, how far conclusive: New York Domestic Relations Law, section 146
Domestic Relations Law, section 143: Jury trial

In an action to annul a marriage, except where it is founded upon an allegation of the physical incapacity of one of the parties thereto, there is a right to trial by a jury of all the issues of fact.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

If you are considering an annulment, it is important that you contact an experienced New York divorce lawyer for specific information about the process for obtaining an annulment. An action for an annulment is very different than an action for a divorce. Not only are the legal requirements different, but so are some of the procedural requirements. With over 20 years of experience representing clients seeking to end their marriages, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates can help. Contact us at 1-800-NY-NY-LAW (1-800-696-9529) to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the following locations: Nassau County, Queens, Suffolk County, Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Staten Island, and Westchester County.

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