The most common way to legally end a marriage in New Jersey is to get a divorce. However, this is not the only option couples have. It is also possible to get an annulment in some instances.

An annulment and a divorce can serve similar purposes, but they have key differences as well. This overview will cover those differences and how you may seek an annulment in New Jersey.

Differences Between an Annulment and a Divorce

Understanding whether you should pursue an annulment or divorce in New Jersey may require speaking with a family lawyer. They can clarify any issues you may be confused about. They can also help you go about the process of getting a divorce or annulment.

That said, the following points cover the basic differences between the two options:

Divorce

NJ law provides spouses with numerous justifications for dissolving a marriage legally. However, getting a divorce in NJ does not nullify the marriage. Spouses who divorce one another may still have certain legal obligations. For example, after a divorce, a spouse may nevertheless be required to pay child support and/or alimony.

Annulment

An annulment nullifies a marriage. It views the marriage as if it never existed in the first place. Courts will grant an annulment when a party can show that a marriage should not have been recognized in the first place. 

Under NJ law, an annulment may be granted for the following reasons:

  • One of the parties in marriage was already involved in another legally recognized relationship (such as a marriage or civil union) at the time of the marriage.
  • At least one of the parties was physically impotent at the time of the marriage, and the other party was unaware of this.
  • At least one of the parties could not legally consent to the marriage due to mental or cognitive limitations.
  • The party requesting an annulment was under the age of 18 years when they got married (unless they later confirmed the marriage after turning 18).

Proving a marriage should be annulled can require gathering evidence to indicate the circumstances above. A family law attorney can assist in this process.

There are various reasons someone may want to have a marriage annulled. Some are practical, some are personal. For example, because certain religions do not approve of divorce, some people choose to get annulments to satisfy their religious values. 

However, a legal annulment is not the same as a religious annulment. If a church or other entity grants an annulment, that doesn’t mean a marriage has been annulled in NJ.

Getting an Annulment in NJ: Essential Steps

The proper way to get a marriage annulled in NJ can vary depending on a range of factors. That said, the process will usually involve these steps:

  • Identifying the reason for requesting an annulment. Consult with an attorney if you’re not sure whether you qualify for an annulment. 
  • Completing a complaint form which can usually be accessed via your local family court’s office or website. Contact a legal professional if you are struggling to determine which form you must complete. You may also need to complete a civil case information form that describes the details of your case.
  • Filing your complaint with the local Superior Court and informing your spouse (which you may do via an approved third party) of the matter.

Strongly consider enlisting the help of an attorney when preparing to request an annulment. Their help won’t just boost the odds of your request being granted—it will also significantly reduce your burden during an emotionally difficult experience.