States have their own laws regarding annulment and the various types of marriages that are prohibited (such as blood relatives). New York annulment and prohibited marriage laws govern the grounds for annulment (a court ruling that the marriage was never valid in the first place), time limits for obtaining an annulment, and the various scenarios in which a marriage would not be recognized by the state.
An annulment will only be granted if a marriage was invalid in the first place. Contrary to popular belief, annulment is not available if the marriage has yet to be consummated, or if the marriage has only been for a short time.
Grounds for Annulment
New York law has a few very specific grounds for an annulment. Those are an undissolved previous marriage, one spouse was underage at the time of marriage, one spouse is physically incapable of having sexual relations, consent to marriage by force, consent to marriage by fraud, or incapability of consent to marriage.
Time Limit for Obtaining an Annulment
There is no time limit for obtaining an annulment in New York. This is because the marriage is not valid, and no amount of time passed will ever validate the marriage. However, there are a few circumstances which validate a marriage, and remove the option of annulment.
If one spouse has a previous marriage, an annulment is always an option. If one spouse is underage at the time of marriage, the marriage may be annulled only until the underage spouse is of legal age and cohabitates with their other spouse. If the marriage is invalid due to a mental illness, annulment is an option as long as the mental illness continues. The marriage is validated if the person with a mental illness freely cohabits with their spouse after they are restored to a sound mind.
If the grounds for the annulment are a physical incapacity to consummate the marriage, an annulment is only an option within five years of the marriage, as long as the incapacity was not known at the time of marriage. If the marriage is a result of force, duress, or fraud, New York marriage law defers to the timeline allowed to sue for those civil wrongdoings.
New York does not allow marriages between ancestors and descendants, siblings regardless of whole or half blood, or between the siblings of ancestors and descendants. While same-sex marriage was never specifically prohibited in New York, the legislative and litigation history of the issue is extensive, with many lawsuits and attempts to pass legislation until a 2011 bill was successful in granting marriage rights to same-sex couples. This decision was ratified on a federal level when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that denial of marriage to same-sex couples was a violation of the constitutional guarantee of equal protection.
Below are some general highlights of these various laws, found in the New York Family Code. See Details on State Annulment and Prohibited Marriage Laws for more information.
||Dom. Rel. §5-7, 24, 140
|Grounds for Annulment
||Undissolved previous marriage; underage; incurable mental illness (for period of 5 yrs. or more); physical incapacity; consent by force, duress or fraud; incapable of consent for want of understanding
|Time Limits for Obtaining Annulment
- Undissolved: Anytime during lifetime of parties;
- Underage: Until legal age of consent and cohabitation;
- Mental: Anytime during which illness continues, unless freely cohabits after restored to sound mind;
- Physical incapacity: Within 5 yrs. of marriage if unknown at marriage;
- Force, duress, fraud: Within civil statute of limitations unless voluntary cohabitation after discovery
|Legitimacy of Children
||Children of annulled or void marriages are legitimate
||Between ancestor and descendant, brother and sister whole or half blood, uncle and niece, aunt and nephew, when previous marriage undissolved
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
New York Codes and Court of Appeals Decisions
If you have additional questions about New York’s annulment and prohibited marriage laws, click on the following links:
Learn More About New York Annulment and Prohibited Marriage Laws from a Lawyer
If you'd like to know more information about the possibility of an annulment or a divorce in New York, you should speak with an experienced divorce lawyer near you. An attorney will be able to answer questions that are specific to your case, and let you know if an annulment is a possibility for you or if you must go through the divorce process instead.