Some couples may want to opt for an annulment rather than a divorce to end their marriage. It is important to know that there is a difference between a civil annulment and a religious annulment. Religious annulments are granted through the church and are not part of the legal process. In California, you are able to seek a legal annulment through the court system. As with divorce, it is best for a person requesting or responding to annulment to seek legal representation from an experienced attorney.

What is an Annulment?

An annulment is the legal voiding of a marriage. It provides a way for couples to nullify the marriage, as though it never happened. When an annulment is granted, it is typically done quickly, as there are time constraints in place for taking this type of legal action. If a marriage does not meet the requirements for an annulment the union must be ended with a divorce. Divorce and annulment are the two general legal options for ending a marriage. Legal annulment is not the same as a religious annulment, which is granted through a church.

What is the difference between an Annulment and Divorce?

Annulment is similar to divorce because both bring a legal end to the marriage. However, with divorce, the union is recognized as a marriage. If an annulment is granted it voids the marriage, making it as though it has never existed in the eyes of the law. As expected, annulments are not as easy to get as divorces because proving there is a valid reason can be very difficult. There are some strict qualifications that must be followed in order to request an annulment. Additionally, a judge must grant the annulment once the criteria have been met.

What are the legal grounds for an Annulment?

Just as there are grounds for divorce, there are also grounds for annulment. The legal grounds for annulment in California include:

  • Incest: parties are blood related
  • Bigamy: one party was already married at the time of the second marriage
  • Age: person requesting annulment was not of legal age (18) at the time of the marriage
  • Fraud: the marriage was a result of fraud perpetrated by either party
  • Physical Incapacity: one person was physically incapable of consummating the relationship and is “incurable”
  • Unsound Mind: one or both parties were unable to understand the nature and obligations of a marriage
  • Force: the marriage was forced by one party

One of these grounds must be met in order to be able to qualify for annulment. The person seeking the annulment must provide proof of the claim and show that the condition was present at the time the marriage took place.

The Annulment Process

The annulment process is similar to the process of divorce. The request is submitted through the California court system. Annulment forms must be completed and submitted to the courts. Because the process may be rather complicated, it is helpful to have your attorney take care of submitting the proper paperwork to begin the procedure. Filing the paperwork is just the first step. Once the request is made, the court will determine the validity of the request. Specific requirements must be met, including a time limit restriction for the various annulment grounds.

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations provides deadlines to file for annulment. These limits are strictly adhered to and must be followed. The deadlines differ, based on the reason for the annulment.

  • Annulment because a party was under the age of 18, must be filed within four years after reaching the age of 18.
  • Annulment for bigamy, can be filed any time, as long as the first spouse is alive
  • Annulment on basis of unsound mind, can be filed at any time during life
  • Annulment due to fraud, must be filed within four years from date of marriage
  • Annulment because of a forced marriage, must be filed in four years
  • Annulment due to physical incapacity, must file in four years

It is important to note that proof must be provided as to the reason for requesting the annulment and so the filing should take place as quickly as possible.

What is the impact of an Annulment?

Voiding a marriage may ensure that the marriage was not legally binding. However, there could be some legal implications later on which could impact finances as well as issues regarding minor children. In a divorce, the courts have the legal authority to divide assets and debts. However, if an annulment is granted the union has been voided and the courts do not have the legal ability to make these determinations.

Therefore, couples who are ending their marriage with an annulment must take appropriate steps to resolve their property issues, dividing their property and other assets. In most cases, due to the short nature of many of these types of marriages, the couple will have accumulated few, if any, marital assets. However, this area can make the process more complicated and can be resolved more easily with the help of a knowledgeable attorney. Because marriages may last as long as four years and still be annulled, the couple may have significant and complicated finances.

Responding to an Annulment

Similar to a divorce, one party may request the annulment, while the other party will need to respond to it. It is helpful to seek legal guidance to determine the best way to proceed. There may be reasons why it is in your best interest to choose divorce rather than annulment to end the marriage. To make this determination and to understand how to respond to an annulment, speak with a qualified annulment attorney.

How can an attorney help?

As with divorce, the process for annulment can be complicated. This is especially true of marriages that lasted for a long period of time, those that accumulated a large number of assets, or those with children. While both annulment and divorce are handled through the family court system, annulment may actually be more complex than a divorce. If you are considering divorce or annulment, or are responding to the filing of your spouse, contact a San Diego annulment lawyer to schedule a consultation. We have the experience and expertise with all family legal matters to professionally handle your annulment.

The information and materials on this blog are provided for general informational or educational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. Being general in nature, the information and materials provided do not apply to any specific factual or legal circumstances. No attorney-client relationship is formed with any attorney employed by San Diego Divorce Lawyers, APC nor should any such relationship be implied by the information provided or by any comments posted. The information provided is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

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