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.