Many people think that divorce is the only option if a marriage has failed. Another option that may be available to you is an annulment. This is another way to end a marriage but the requirements are pretty strict.

Some questions you may be asking are: Is divorce your only option? Do you qualify for an annulment? If you do qualify, how do you get an annulment in California? What rights do you have after an annulment? Read below to answer these questions and more.  

What is an Annulment in California?

A marriage annulment is when a court declares that a marriage is not legally valid. It is also sometimes called a nullity of marriage or a nullity of a domestic partnership. It is different from a divorce because once it is granted, it is as if the two parties were never married.

To be granted an annulment, you will need to prove to a judge one of the following reasons listed below. Each reason has its own statute of limitations. This means that if a certain amount of time has passed, a person can no longer file for an annulment. The parties will need to seek other ways to split up including legal separation or divorce.

1) Incest or Bigamy

A marriage is never legally valid in California if there is incest or bigamy in the marriage. Incest is marriage to a close relative, while bigamy involves getting married to someone who is already married to someone else.

Statute of Limitations: No time limit. These types of marriages are never legally valid. An annulment will always be granted to nullify the union.

2) Fraud

Either party can file for an annulment due to fraud if they can prove that the marriage was created under dishonest circumstances. A common example of this is finding out that a spouse only got married for a green card.

Statute of Limitations: Must be filed within four years of when the fraud is discovered.

3) Unsound Mind Annulment

An unsound mind annulment in California means that one partner was not able to understand what marriage was and what responsibilities came with the union when the marriage occurred.

Statute of Limitations: There is no time limit and it can be filed at any time after the marriage.

4) Force

Force means that one spouse compelled the other into the marriage. This usually means that one spouse did not, or was not able to, consent at the time of the union.

Statute of Limitations: Must be filed within four years of the marriage.

5) Age

If one of the parties in the domestic partnership or marriage is under the age of 18 at the time of the union, they can file for an annulment in California.

Statute of Limitations: Must be filed within four years of the minor turning eighteen years of age.

6) Physical Incapacity

One party in the union needs to be physically incapacitated to the extent where they are physically unable to consummate the marriage. This incapacity needs to be long-term or incurable. An example of this would be a person marrying someone while they are in a coma.

 Statute of Limitations: Must be filed within four years of the marriage.

What are the Effects of an Annulment in California?

An annulment in California means that the marriage was not valid. Because of this, certain things that are guaranteed in a divorce or separation are not automatically given in an annulment. This includes child custody, visitation, and rights to property.  

If a marriage is declared invalid, that means that any children born in the relationship are not assumed to be the legal children of the parents. This assumption would be made in the case of a divorce or legal separation. In the case of an annulment, the parties would need to petition the court to determine parentage. Once this is declared, the parents can then file for child custody, support, and visitation rights.  

California is a community property state. This determines how property is divided after a divorce. An annulment means that the parties are giving up their rights to distribute property in this way. However, there is an exception. A spouse can petition the court to declare that they have “putative” rights to the community property or support, despite the annulment. This means that the spouse can show that they had a good faith belief that the marriage was legitimate and, because of this, they are entitled to some support or property benefits that would be granted in a divorce. 

For more information, call our law firm at (619) 866-3756 or reach out to us via email by visiting our contact us page.