You can obtain an annulment based on one of the five reasons set forth in New York Domestic Relations Law (“DRL”) Section 140. This post will focus on an annulment based on fraud-DRL 140(e). Pursuant to this statute:
An action to annul a marriage on the ground that the consent of one of the parties thereto was obtained by force or duress may be maintained at any time by the party whose consent was so obtained. An action to annul a marriage on the ground that the consent of one of the parties thereto was obtained by fraud may be maintained by the party whose consent was so obtained within the limitations of time for enforcing a civil remedy of the civil practice law and rules. Any such action may also be maintained during the lifetime of the other party by the parent, or the guardian of the person of the party whose consent was so obtained, or by any relative of that party who has an interest to avoid the marriage, provided that in an action to annul a marriage on the ground of fraud the limitation prescribed in the civil practice law and rules has not run. But a marriage shall not be annulled on the ground of force or duress if it appears that, at any time before the commencement of the action, the parties thereto voluntarily cohabited as husband and wife; or on the ground of fraud, if it appears that, at any time before the commencement thereof, the parties voluntarily cohabited as husband and wife, with a full knowledge of the facts constituting the fraud.
As provided for in the above statute and New York case law, a plaintiff seeking an annulment based on fraud must show that: (1) the action was brought within three years of discovering the fraud; (2) the fraud would have deceived an ordinarily prudent person, and (3) that the consent was given due to the fraud. The most common fraudulent acts include, but are not limited to, marriage for a green card; falsely claiming the desire to have children; falsely claiming to love the other spouse; and falsely claiming to be pregnant. Since marriage is a social contract, both parties must knowingly consent to the marriage of their own free will.
Here is a case example of how fraud was successfully plead by the wife in Rich v. Rich, 40 A.D.2d 846 (2nd Dept. 1972): In this case, the husband had falsely represented before marriage that he intended to have children, knowing such representations to be false and fraudulent. The wife had believed such representations and married him in reliance on those facts; she would not have married him had she known that he did not intend to have children. After discovering the fraud, she ceased to cohabit with him. Based on these facts, the Court granted her an annulment.