Court May Award Maintenance In Action To Annul Marriage Based On Fraud

Domestic Relations Law § 141 specifically provides that maintenance may be awarded in an action to annul a marriage on the ground of incurable mental illness for five years of one of the parties. But can maintenance also be awarded in actions to annul a marriage on other grounds? There are five grounds to annul a marriage listed under Domestic Relations Law § 140: (1) under the age of consent, (2) mental illness, (3) physical incapacity, (4) force, duress, or fraud, and (5) mental illness for five years.

Article 9 of the Domestic Relations Law, which governs actions to annul marriages, is silent as to the other grounds. Only § 141 mentions maintenance in actions based on mental illness for five years.

The Second Department addressed this issue Tuesday in LeMieux v LeMieux, 2008 NY Slip Op 01510. In that case, the trial court awarded maintenance in an action to annul a marriage based on the ground of fraud.

The Second Department upheld the award rejecting the argument that Domestic Relations Law § 141 limited the power of the trial court to award maintenance only in actions based certain grounds. The Second Department found that the trial court had the discretion to award maintenance pursuant to Domestic Relations Law § 236(B)(2). Domestic Relations Law § 236(B)(2) states that the court has the discretion to make a maintenance award in any matrimonial action.  Thus, the trial court could award maintenance in an action to annul based on fraud. The Court stated that Domestic Relations Law § 141 simply provided an:

additional procedural and substantive detail with respect to an action to annul a marriage based upon five years’ incurable mental illness of one of the parties, to ensure that the disabled spouse is cared for and does not become a public charge.

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