Annulment vs. Divorce in New York: What's the Difference?
What’s the difference between an annulment and a divorce? An annulment renders a marriage null and void as if it never happened in most respects. A divorce ends a marriage but still acknowledges it occurred.
A divorce is typically much more expensive and takes a lot longer to complete than an annulment – except in the case of uncontested divorce, where both parties largely agree on how a divorce should go and come to a legal agreement in writing.
Let’s take a closer look at the differences between annulment and divorce in New York.
Annulment process in New York
For most legal purposes, an annulment renders a marriage null and void. Beyond there being a record of the marriage and the subsequent annulment, the marriage is essentially treated as having never been valid. That said, children of the marriage remain legitimate heirs.
In annulment, there is little capacity for either party to seek the kind of property division typical of divorce, although marital property is still split.
There are five grounds for annulment in New York:
- Being married when too young to give consent
- Lacking the mental capacity to consent at the time of the marriage
- Lack of physical capacity of either party to consummate the marriage, with one party not knowing this was the case at the time of the marriage
- Either party consenting to the marriage under duress, through force, or through fraud
- Either party being incurably mentally ill for more than five years
Divorce process in New York
Divorce is a process that ends a marriage, but unlike an annulment, the marriage isn’t considered to have been null and void. Divorce is the more typical way marriages end. It is generally a lengthier and costlier process than annulment.
When you get a divorce in New York, your marital property is equitably split between both parties. This means, among other things, that there is the potential for one to lose significant amounts of property as a result of a divorce. Notably, the court attempts to make the split fair (hence the term “equitable”) rather than splitting all property 50/50 with no consideration for the circumstances of each person.
Fault and no-fault divorce in New York
There are two general types of divorce in New York: at-fault and no-fault divorce. A divorce with fault-based grounds occurs when one party is considered “at fault” due to improper behavior, such as adultery or cruel treatment of their spouse. In a no-fault divorce, a marriage is considered to have broken down, but neither member of the couple is legally ascribed as the direct cause of the divorce.
In New York, when a person files for divorce, their spouse has time to respond to the claims made in the divorce petition. Both parties may eventually have to go to court, where the details of the divorce outcome will be decided. This may take place over the course of multiple hearings.
The New York divorce process can be much faster if both parties are open to admitting the divorce is necessary and discussing how their property should be split. For example, if the two of you work with a mediator to determine the distribution of assets, you may not have to go to court at all. Instead, you may submit your proposed settlement agreement and be notified if the court approves your agreement.
Annulment cost in New York
The annulment of a marriage is likely to cost several hundred dollars in court fees. If you use a lawyer, you may need to pay upwards of $1,000 on top of those fees, depending on your lawyer and their hourly rate. Annulments typically cost significantly less than divorces do.
Divorce cost in New York
Unless uncontested (where both parties largely can agree on how a divorce should occur), a divorce is likely to cost thousands of dollars, with many sources quoting about $16,000 to $17,000, although the specific cost of a given divorce can vary significantly.
This is in addition to the split of property that occurs with divorce, which can be significant depending on which assets one considers theirs in a marriage.
Which takes longer in New York: an annulment or a divorce?
A divorce will almost always take longer than an annulment. That said, both processes can take months, depending on how resistant a given party is and any complicating factors, such as any minor children who may need to be considered during the split.
In a divorce, there is significantly more property likely to be divided between the two parties. This process can take multiple court appearances with significant back-and-forth between the parties. However, if both parties can come to an agreement in mediation, this significantly shortens the time frame.
An annulment is a highly specific way of ending a marriage with far more limited use cases than divorce. It renders a marriage null and void and greatly reduces the scope of how property will be split.
Pros and cons of annulment vs. divorce
- An annulment is generally a simpler way to end a marriage if you have the grounds to do so. It is likely to cost a lot less upfront and take less time.
- Annulment renders the marriage null and void, as if it never occurred from a legal perspective.
- The primary drawback of an annulment is the limited circumstances under which you can get one.
- The division of property is much smaller in scope in annulment than it is in divorce.
- Some people may dislike the idea of their marriage being considered null and void. They may instead want an acknowledgment, on a legal level, that it happened rather than it being almost completely erased.
- Divorce can be a lengthy and expensive process. It can be a significant legal battle to get a split of property that you consider fair.
- Even if you go to great expense and take months of time, there is often no way to guarantee your divorce will end the way you want. Most often, neither party ends up with everything they want in a divorce.
- The equitable split of property in a divorce is often more appealing than what you would have received in an annulment.
- A divorce is easier to get than an annulment. The grounds for divorce are much more broad.
- If you can process your divorce via mediation rather than fighting it out in court, the process is substantially more affordable and less stressful.
ReferencesAnnulment. (February 2019). Association of the Bar of the City of New York.
Divorce & Separation. (December 2022). Association of the Bar of the City of New York.
Divorce Information & Frequently Asked Questions. NY Courts.