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The Difference Between a Divorce and an Annulment in New York

In New York, the county Supreme Court is the only arm of the State Judiciary that has the power to handle divorces, annulments, and related issues under the provisions in the state's Domestic Relations Laws. The Supreme Court in each county creates, maintains, and disseminates records related to divorces and annulment to eligible individuals. Likewise, available divorce or annulment records can be obtained through third-party service providers.

What is a New York Divorce Decree?

According to Section 466 of Domestic Relations Laws, a divorce decree is a document that contains information on the court's final judgment as well as the terms and conditions of a divorce. Divorce decrees in New York are prepared by the ruling court and are only legally valid when signed by the judge. A copy of the divorce decree is filed with the Clerk of Courts.

What is an Annulment in New York?

According to the New York Judiciary, an annulment is a legal action in which a spouse petitions the court to declare a marriage as invalid based on a specific ground. A successful annulment is a legal declaration that states that a marriage was never legally valid in the first place. Thus, after the declaration of annulment, the parties involved are free to remarry. According to New York's Freedom of Information Law, only parties involved can access annulment records from the local and state custodians of the record.

Annulment vs Divorce in New York

Under New York Laws, marriages are dissolved in a divorce or annulment. While divorce is the dissolution of a lawful marriage, an annulment retroactively determines that marriage was unlawful and thus void or invalid from the outset. In New York, there are several grounds for an intending divorcee to file for dissolution. For example, an intending divorcee may file for divorce based on irreconcilable differences. However, New York Courts only grant annulments under five circumstances. The petitioner must prove that:

  • either spouse was under age 18 at the time of the marriage;
  • either spouse was incapable of consenting to marriage due to mental illness;
  • either spouse is physically unable to have sexual intercourse;
  • either spouse was incurably mentally ill for at least five years;
  • either spouse obtained marriage consent by duress, coercion, or fraud.

How to get a divorce or a marriage annulled based on the state's judicial processes.

Generally, individuals intending to carry out either action must employ the services of an experienced attorney. The attorney will represent the individual's best interests during the legal process and aid in filing the required documents.

  • Getting a divorce.

Intending divorcees must:

  • Meet the state's residency requirements according to section 230 of the Domestic Relations Law
  • Have acceptable grounds for divorce.
  • File a Summons and Complaint at the office of Clerk of Courts
  • Complete and submit a Request for Judicial Intervention form at the Clerk's Office of the local Supreme Court.
  • Complete the Service of Process (SoP) by sending the other party copies of the documents filed within 120 days.
  • Complete court-mandated mediation
  • File and submit other required forms at the Clerk's Office
  • Proceed to trial in cases of failed mediations or settlement
  • Getting an annulment.

Unlike a divorce which the court can grant upon written/sworn testimony or settlement without a trial, parties involved in an annulment in New York must go to hearing and trial. During an annulment trial, the petitioner must prove at least one of the grounds for annulment. They may also produce corroborating evidence, documents, or witnesses to support the grounds for annulment.

Is an Annulment Cheaper Than Divorce In New York?

No. A divorce may be settled out of court, thus saving the parties costs and resources that may be expended in a lengthy trial. On the other hand, an annulment is comparably expensive since both parties must pay billable legal fees and added expenses.

Furthermore, the New York Domestic Relations Law does not make provisions for spousal support after an annulment. However, an annulment does not affect child support from a spouse. Regardless, marriage dissolution in New York is not a cheap affair.

What is an Uncontested Divorce in New York?

According to Section 170 (7) of the New York Domestic Relations Law, an uncontested divorce is when both spouses agree to marriage a marriage dissolution and have reached a mutual settlement on all divorce-related issues such as division of property and alimony. Furthermore, both spouses must agree on the grounds for the divorce. For example, intending divorcees may file for divorce on the grounds of "irretrievable breakdown of the marriage." This means that both spouses no longer want to be married and resolution is unlikely.

Where to get an Uncontested Divorce Form in New York

Intending divorcees may download and complete application forms for an uncontested divorce on the New York State Unified Court System web page. Also, interested persons may download these forms individually or download a composite form for an uncontested divorce. More importantly, intending divorcees must follow the step-by-step instructions provided by the State Judiciary.

Only parties involved in the divorce and their legal designees may obtain copies of the documents filed at the Clerk's Office. Nevertheless, local jurisdictions have a checklist of the process for granting an uncontested divorce. For example, Nassau County maintains a checklist on this web page.

cords that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How do I get a copy of my Divorce Decree in New York?

The Clerk of Courts at the local Supreme Court creates, maintains, and issues copies of divorce decrees in New York. The state of New York considers divorce records as confidential. Therefore, only eligible requestors such as the parties involved, their attorneys, or legal designees may obtain a copy of a divorce decree.

To obtain a divorce decree, the eligible requester must visit the Clerk's Office in person. Furthermore, requesters may have to present a valid government-issued photo ID and cover the costs of copying or certification. The Clerk's Office will provide an estimate for associated costs.

Divorce and marriage records may be available through government sources and organizations, though their availability cannot be guaranteed. This is also true of their availability through third-party websites and companies, as these organizations are not government-sponsored and record availability may vary further. Finally, marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information they contain, and are often sealed. Bearing these factors in mind, record availability for these types of records cannot be guaranteed.

How do I get a New York Divorce Decree Online?

The online availability of divorce decrees to eligible requesters varies with counties. Therefore, interested parties must visit the courthouse in person to view these records on public terminals located at the local Clerk's Office. However, certain third-party service providers such as allow remote access to available divorce records.

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