Understanding Matrimonial Actions in New York

Matrimonial actions refer to a variety of legal decisions associated with the end of a marriage. This can include a divorce, legal separation, and annulment. Each of these legal actions is handled somewhat differently in each state, though most of the differences are minor. However, understanding the key differences between each of these matrimonial actions is essential if you and your spouse are considering putting an end to your relationship.

There are benefits and downsides to each matrimonial action, so the key is to learn as much as you can about each option before you choose which is best for you. Additionally, an annulment is not an option for many married couples, and some couples might not be able to accomplish what they wish through either a legal separation or a divorce.

Before you make any permanent decisions about your marriage, make sure you understand the three key matrimonial actions in New York and how they could affect you.


An annulment does more than just end your marriage, it makes it so that, legally speaking, your marriage never existed. The conditions for an annulment in New York are very specific, and not everyone is eligible.

You can only pursue an annulment in New York if one of the following conditions is true:

  • Either spouse was under the age of 18
  • Either spouse is mentally ill or was mentally incapacitated when the marriage took place
  • The marriage was not consummated and either spouse is physically incapable of consummating the marriage
  • The marriage was conducted under false pretenses or fraudulent claims
  • The marriage took place so that one spouse could obtain a Green Card
  • The marriage took place while either spouse was forced or under duress


For couples who do not qualify for, or do not want, an annulment, divorce can be the best way to dissolve their marriage. The divorce process will successfully end the marriage, but it will not erase it completely, as an annulment will. Divorced couples can separate themselves personally, financially, and in every other aspect. If a couple shares children, they can also create a parenting plan to effectively work together as co-parents through child custody and child support arrangements. Additionally, the couple will need to separate all assets and work out any spousal support payments.

Legal Separation

Through a legal separation, each party may be free to live their separate lives without going through a permanent divorce. Some couples choose to be legally separated so that they can work towards repairing their marriage later, or to take time to decide whether or not they wish to remain married. Others choose to separate because they don’t wish to go through with a divorce at any point. Whatever the reasoning, a legal separation can be an effective way to grant each spouse legal freedom while the marriage remains intact.

If one spouse relies on the other for health benefits, they may wish to remain married, but legally separated, so that those health benefits may continue. Separation might also be the best choice for military couples if the spouse of the military member wishes to qualify for lifetime health benefits after 10 years of marriage. Couples might also lean towards a legal separation because they can benefit from Social Security benefits if the marriage lasted for 10 years or more.

Not sure which matrimonial action is best for you? Our firm can help. Contact Empire Law​ to discuss your case with our Yonkers divorce lawyer.