In New York, there is such a thing as a marriage that is voidable. Voidable means that under certain circumstances a marriage, though valid, can be annulled. According to NY Dom Rel Law § 7, Voidable Marriages, voidable marriages can be annulled or declared invalid by a judge. If this happens, then the marriage was void. It is different from a divorce. With a divorce, a marriage that was once valid, is terminated. In the eyes of the law a void marriage never existed—there was nothing to terminate. On the other hand, if the marriage is annulled, in the eyes of the law the marriage never existed. If you have concerns about the validity of your marriage, contact the experienced New York family lawyers at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis. We can help ensure that your interests are protected.Voidable marriages
Under New York Domestic Relations Law, there are 5 circumstances under which a marriage would be voidable.
- Under age 18. If one or both of the parties is under the age of consent—which is 18 years—then then they cannot get married unless a parent consents. Without parental consent, the marriage would be voidable. Children under the age of 14 cannot legally get married.
- Mental incapacity. In order to get married, the law requires that you have the capacity to understand the marriage commitment. If a person was mentally incapacitated at the time the parties got married, then that person would not have had the capacity to consent to marriage and the marriage is voidable.
- Impotency. If a party is not able to consummate marriage by having sexual relations, the marriage is voidable.
- Duress, force, or fraud. The parties to a marriage must enter it under their own free will. Thus, if one or both of the parties was forced to enter into the marriage, then the marriage is voidable. Further, the parties to a marriage must not enter it under false pretenses.
- Incurable mental illness. If a person has been mentally ill for at least 5 years, then a marriage enter into involving that person would be voidable.
Under these circumstances one or both of the parties must petition the court for an annulment to declare the marriage void. If the judge grants it, then the marriage is void. This process is different from cases where the marriage is void from the inception. In those cases, the marriage is void and an annulment is not necessary.Related Statutory Provisions
- Incestuous and void marriages: New York Domestic Relations Law, section 5
- Void marriages: New York Domestic Relations Law, section 6
- Action for judgment declaring nullity of void marriages or annulling voidable marriage: New York Domestic Relations Law, section 140
- Action to annul marriage on ground of incurable mental illness for five years; procedure; support: New York Domestic Relations Law, section 141
A marriage is void from the time its nullity is declared by a court of competent jurisdiction if either party thereto:
- Is under the age of legal consent, which is eighteen years, provided that such nonage shall not of itself constitute an absolute right to the annulment of such marriage, but such annulment shall be in the discretion of the court which shall take into consideration all the facts and circumstances surrounding such marriage;
- Is incapable of consenting to a marriage for want of understanding;
- Is incapable of entering into the married state from physical cause;
- Consent to such marriage by reason of force, duress or fraud;
- Has been incurably mentally ill for a period of five years or more.
Whether you believe that your marriage is based on fraud or if there is another circumstance that you believe is a basis for an annulment, an experienced New York family lawyer 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.