Over the years, many potential clients that I have met are under the mistaken belief that if a marriage is of very short duration, then they may obtain an annulment as opposed to a divorce. This is a desired outcome for many because, as opposed to a Divorce, an annulment does not terminate a marriage but rather completely voids the marriage so it is as if the marriage never existed. N.J.S.A. 2A:34-1 It is at this point of the consultation that I utilize a case for an annulment that I handled back in the 1990’s in order to explain the difference between divorce and annulment.
First I explain that in the state of New Jersey, the most common ground for an annulment is “fraud in the inducement” to marry. When the potential client looks at me with some confusion, I explain that many years ago a young man came to see me for an annulment. Now, by this point of my career I had many folks ask me if they qualify for an annulment, and roughly 90%-95% of the time they do not. However, once this poor fellow answered a number of my questions, I quickly realized that he qualified under New Jersey law for an annulment.
Long story short, he was dating a girl for a few months when she suddenly announced that she was pregnant and that he was the father. So, he did what he felt was the “right thing to do,” and proposed to her on the spot. They were married in a small civil ceremony shortly thereafter and the newlyweds moved into his parent’s house.
Approximately one month later, they were have an argument during which the young wife exclaimed, “oh yeah, well I was never even pregnant!” I then realized that this was a perfect example of “fraud in the inducement” to marry. If she had never lied about being pregnant, he would not have married her. However, her fraud induced this fellow to ask her to marry him, I successfully obtained a Court Order for an annulment, and he left the Courthouse content that his marriage was legally voided.
So, you ask, how does this apply to the Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries divorce proceeding. As most of us know, the divorce is lasting radically longer than the actual marriage, which was a total of 72 days. Kim has stated that she wishes to finalize her divorce from Humphries as soon as possible. Kim’s rush to complete the process is surely heightened by the fact that she is now having a baby with her latest boyfriend, Kanye West. However, as Kris insists that he desires an annulment, and this fact is causing a major delay to the proceedings. Kim filed for divorce all the way back in October 2011.
Kris feels that Kim fraudulently entered into the marriage for the publicity and saw it as only a money making opportunity because of her reality show (which aired the wedding ceremony) and her celebrity status. Therefore, Kris does not want a divorce, he wants an annulment based on fraud. The question now is; how does Kris prove in a Court of law that he was defrauded by Kim?
For Kris and his family attorneys to prove fraud, one must present evidence of the fraud. This could include documents, letter, emails, or even testimony from others attesting to the fraud. Humphries’ attorney has been flying all over the country deposing witnesses looking for evidence as well as gathering documents to support the claim. This will all be presented to a judge in a formal trial (which is extremely rare especially when a marriage has been of such a short length. At the end of the trial, the Judge will make the final decision as to whether an annulment is warranted here.
Of note, a trial is always an extremely costly option for any divorce and as in the case of Kim and Kris, legal fees are escalating. On what should have been a very simple divorce based on the terms of the prenuptial agreement, Kim alleges that her legal fees are over $250,000. Since Kris is the one who is prolonging the ordeal, if the Judge determines that Kris acted in bad faith by purposefully delaying the matter and/or did not have grounds for an annulment, he may be ordered to pay some, if not all, of Kim’s legal fees. How this all plays out should be quite interesting and, knowing Kim, the publicity generated by this case will be next to impossible to escape.
The end of any marriage is always an extremely difficult time for a marriage that is now end stage. At some point during the divorce process one party may “want their day in court.” Thus, it is essential that, if you or a loved one is facing a divorce or a potential annulment, they should meet with myself or one of the attorneys at the Law Offices of Edward R. Weinstein to discuss their options, procedures and similar issues as they may relate to children or finances.