Divorce and annulment are generally the same in the sense that they are legal proceedings that end a marriage. The key difference is that, in granting an annulment, a court is recognizing that the marriage never actually existed in the first place. There are only a few grounds that qualify under the New York annulment statute, including duress, incapacity, mental illness, or one of the parties not reaching adulthood. If you can provide solid evidence and meet the legal standards, the judge will issue an order annulling the marriage. However, you may not fully understand what the process means for your rights, duties, and future.
Annulment does terminate certain rights that you would have if you went through the divorce process, but New York laws are complicated on what aspects of the relationship remain. It is wise to work with a New York annulment lawyer who will protect your interests, though reviewing some of the consequences of annulment will help you understand the basics.
Marital Property Rights
Even though the law considers the marriage void after annulment, the parties may have still accumulated considerable property while together. Therefore, in some cases, the court will conduct an analysis similar to equitable distribution of marital property under divorce laws. A judge will evaluate assets and how they were acquired, and then divide marital property according to the interests of equity. This process may not result in an exact 50-50 split, but it aims to do justice between the parties.
You might expect that alimony would never be a consideration in an annulment, but it may be allowed under New York law. The initial inquiry is whether spousal maintenance is appropriate, based upon such factors as:
- One spouse giving up education or business opportunities to support the family;
- A party’s non-financial contributions to the family and household;
- The economic disparities between the parties; and
- Many other factors.
Child Custody, Visitation, and Support
An annulment voids the marriage, but it does not impact each parent’s rights and responsibilities with respect to minor children. Courts favor an arrangement where parents share in custody and important decision-making; the nonresidential parent may exercise visitation rights. As with all matters affecting custody and visitation, judges make decisions based upon New York’s standard on best interests of the child.
A nonresidential parent will typically be required to pay child support, which is determined by combining each parent’s income and applying a percentage based upon the number of children. However, a judge can deviate from this formula when doing so would mean a more suitable child support amount. The court may review such factors as:
- Financial resources of the parents;
- The child’s health, well-being, and special needs;
- The child’s standard of living;
- How taxes will affect child support;
- The child’s educational needs;
- Whether a parent supports other children; and
- Non-financial contributions of the parents.
Note that New York law does establish a presumption that the parties are biological parents of any child born to the marriage – even though it was voidable. Therefore, separate paternity proceedings are unnecessary unless someone wants to rebut the presumption.
Our New York Annulment Attorneys Can Explain the Implications
While you might be able to work out some of these issues by agreement, remaining disputes may need to be resolved by a judge during annulment proceedings. Our lawyers at The Mandel Law Firm will advocate on your behalf during settlement negotiations, but we are ready to go to court to fight for your rights. For more information on annulment, please call our Manhattan office at (646) 770-3868 or visit our website today. We can schedule a consultation to assess your circumstances and explain the laws.