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Encyclopedia > Annullment

Annulment is a legal procedure for declaring a marriage null and void. When procured from the Catholic Church it also enables one to get remarried in the Church. This is independent from obtaining a civil divorce, although before beginning a process in front of the Ecclesiastical Tribunal, it has to be clear that the marriage community cannot be rebuilt.


Annulment in New York State

The cause of action for Annulment in New York State is generally fraud (DRL 140 (e)). There are other arguments; see the Statute.


"Fraud" generally means the intentional deception of the Plaintiff by the Defendant in order to induce the Plaintiff to marry. The misrepresentation must be substantial in nature, and the Plaintiff's consent to the marriage predicated on the Defendant's statement. The perpetration of the fraud (prior to the marriage), and the discovery of the fraud (subsequent to the marriage) must be proven by corroboration of a witness or other external proof, even if the Defendant admits guilt (DRL 144). The time limit is three years (not one year). This does not run from the date of the marriage, but the date the fraud was discovered, or could reasonably have been discovered.


The grounds for annulment do not include any of the following:

  • Failure to consummate the marriage
  • Failure to live together
  • Marriage less than 1 year
  • Mutual consent
  • Mistake
  • Already married

A bigamous marriage (one party was still married at the time of the second marriage) cannot be annulled—it is void ab initio (not legal from its inception). However, either party (as well as certain other parties) can petition the Court with an "Action to Declare the Nullity of a Void marriage" (DRL 140 (a)). The Court, upon proper pleadings, renders a Judgment that the marriage is void. There may be effects of marriage such as a property settlement and even maintenance if the court finds it equitable to order such relief.


Multiple annulments

  • Henry VIII of England had four of his six marriages annulled. These marriages were to Catherine of Aragon (on the grounds that she had already been married to his brother), Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard (whom he later had executed) and Anne of Cleves (on the grounds of not consummating the marriage).

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