Published On: February 7, 2024

How Important Is It to Consummate a Marriage?

Am I Entitled to an Annulment Under NY Law if My Marriage Has Not Reached Consummation?

After a couple enters into a marriage, it is presumed that they would live together and would consummate their wedding, or engage in sexual intercourse. But contrary to popular belief, if a married couple does not consummate their marriage in New York, it does not automatically qualify for an annulment or voiding of the state of the marriage.

A marital partner may only seek an annulment based on specific criteria. In the case of consummating a marriage, it is only necessary grounds for annulment if one party has a physical incapacity that prevents them from doing so, and it was discovered after the marriage.

If you have any inquiries regarding the specific criteria for obtaining an annulment or divorce, or other related matters, such as whether separation is required to get a divorce or if you need to provide spousal support after an annulment, it is important to seek the guidance of an experienced New York family law attorney to help you understand your rights and obligations. At The Law Office of Ryan Besinque, we may be able to assist you in finding the most appropriate resolution for you and your family. To schedule a free consultation, please contact us at (929) 251-4477 or email us at

What does the Law Consider as Annulment? Is It Necessary To Consummate Marriage?

An annulment is when the court determines that the state of a marriage is no longer valid. If certain criteria are met, a marriage can be annulled even if it was initially valid when the couple was married.

There are five reasons that may cause a marriage to be annulled in New York.

  • The husband, wife, or both marital partners was too young to be in a marital relationship — Anyone under the age of 18 requires the consent of both parents and anyone under the age of 16 requires a judge’s approval in order to be legally married in New York. When these requirements are not met, the underage party or their parents or guardians may seek an annulment of the marriage.
  • Lack of mental capacity — If the husband, wife, or both marital partners was mentally ill or incapacitated with no possible treatment, the court may annul the marriage.
  • Incurable mental illness — If the husband or wife has a mental illness with no possible treatment for a period of five years or more, the other marital partner may seek an annulment.
  • Consent for marriage was obtained through force, duress, or fraud — If one party was physically forced into the marriage, pressured into marriage by the fraud of the other marital partner, or had a wedding to obtain immigration status, the marriage can be annulled.
  • The lack of physical capacity to attain consummation in the marriage — When one of the marital partners is not able to take part in the consummation of the marriage but was unaware of it at the time they were married, the marriage may be annulled. It is necessary for this to happen within five years of the date of the marriage.
Possible Reasons for Marriage Annulment in New York Description
Underage Marriage Marriage involving parties under 18 without proper consent, or under 16 without a judge’s approval, may be annulled.
Lack of Mental Capacity If a spouse lacks mental capacity or is incapacitated with no hope of treatment, the court may grant an annulment.
Incurable Mental Illness When one spouse has an incurable mental illness lasting five years or more, the other spouse may seek an annulment.
Consent Obtained by Force, Duress, or Fraud Marriage consent gained through force, duress, fraud, or for immigration purposes can lead to annulment.
Inability to Consummate Marriage within 5 Years If one spouse cannot consummate the marriage, and the other was unaware at the time, annulment is possible within 5 years.

What Does Consummating a Marriage Mean?

In the context of a marriage, the term “consummation” refers to the act of physically completing the marital union. While consummation is not a legal requirement, many couples still consider it an important part of their marriage. The act of consummation in a marital context refers to the physical expression of love and commitment between two individuals and their hope of starting a family. Consummation is considered as the completion of the marriage, where the two parties involved in the union engage in sexual intercourse for the first time.

Although consummation is not a legal requirement, whether or not the couple has engaged in it can still have legal consequences. If you or your spouse were incapable of having sexual intercourse but were unaware of this condition at the time of marriage.  In that case, the marriage might be eligible for an annulment.  An annulment is a legal declaration that the marriage was never valid, and it can affect other aspects of the marriage and its dissolution, such as the division of property and spousal support.

Do You Need A Lawyer To File The Paperwork For An Annulment?

There are two legal ways to end a marriage: annulments and divorce. However, there is a fundamental difference between them. A legal annulment is when the court declares that the marriage was invalid from the beginning. The court will treat the marriage as if it never existed. In the meantime, divorces recognize that a marriage is valid.

A person who annuls their marriage but later marries again will be considered to have been in their first marriage. If a divorcee marries again, they are considered to be in their second marriage.

An annulment does not invalidate a marriage but it can also end a legally-existing one. However, they are still complex affairs. For a variety of reasons, it is a good idea for you to contact a divorce lawyer if you wish to annul your marriage.

How Can You Prove Grounds for an Annulment?

In order for a marriage to be annulled, you will need to prove the grounds. These grounds vary slightly from one state or another. Therefore, it is important that you are familiar with the laws in your particular state. This is why local divorce attorneys are so helpful. They will help you understand the legalities surrounding annulment within your jurisdiction.

Even though there are some slight differences between the cases, they tend to be similar. It is necessary to show proof that your original marital contract was invalid.

It is possible to annul a married relationship if it breaks the marriage laws. An example of this would be an incestuous marriage that is prohibited. The marriage of siblings, uncles, nieces, aunts, and nephews is prohibited. Also, it is generally against the law to marry first cousins. A marriage that is not in accordance with the law of marriage cannot be recognized by the state. Accordingly, the contract becomes invalid.

Many state laws contain time limitations regarding when individuals may file for annulments. You may not be allowed to annul your marriage if you have been married for a longer time than the limitation. You have two options: separation or divorce.

Once a marriage is annulled, it is considered void. While all marital records remain, the couple may consider themselves as never having a marriage.

Although an annulment voids the wedding, it does not affect the legitimacy of the children or the couple’s responsibility to them. When there are minor children involved, child custody and support are factors that still must be dealt with in an annulment. The court can order child support, custody, and visitation, similar to a divorce.

Likewise, if assets and property were acquired by the couple during the marriage, the equitable distribution would still be a factor. The court may intervene in the distribution of marital property and may also order spousal maintenance in certain circumstances.

Getting the Help of an Experienced Divorce Lawyer for a Possible Annulment

New York family law can be complicated. If you are considering an annulment and concerned about whether the consummation of your marriage is a factor, about your grounds, rights, and your responsibilities, it is essential to get the skilled guidance of a New York family law attorney. At The Law Office of Ryan Besinque, we have the experience it takes to guide you toward the best resolution for you and your family. Contact us at (929) 251-4477 or email us at to schedule a free consultation.

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