Many divorcing couples wish they had never married in the first place, but regret is not a valid reason to seek an annulment in California. There are certain very specific—and rather extreme—reasons for an annulment, and they all require strong proof to hold up in court. Whatever your reason for wanting an annulment rather than a divorce, you will have to meet California’s strict legal standards. Before you go too far down the annulment road, you would be smart to consult a California divorce attorney to discuss your options.
When You Can Get an Annulment
It might sound like splitting hairs, but there is a big difference between divorce and annulment. When an annulment is granted, the state is saying that the marriage never happened. Each partner gives up the rights that would be granted in a divorce, such as division of property according to community laws and spousal support. If there are children, you would have to ask a judge to establish parentage. Because of the sacrifice of these rights, the state takes annulments very seriously.
In cases of incest, where two close blood relatives marry, or bigamy, where someone has knowingly married more than one person, the state of California will automatically annul those contracts when they are discovered, even if all parties consented to the marriage.
Outside of incest and intentional bigamy, you will have to provide one of the following reasons to get an annulment:
- Age. If one party in the marriage was under the age of 18 at the time of the marriage, he or she could get the marriage annulled.
- Prior existing marriage. If it is discovered after the marriage that one of the parties was still in a legal marriage or domestic partnership with another person, the subsequent marriage will be considered void.
- Fraud. If one party believes they were deceived by the other party in some way, they could file for an annulment. Examples of fraud include a person claiming to be someone else, marrying to get a green card, or misrepresenting employment or financial status.
- Force. Coercing or forcing someone into marriage is illegal and can result in an annulment. Examples include issuing threats against family members, children, or the bride herself.
- Unsound mind. To enter into a marriage contract, just like any other contract, both parties must be of sound mind, meaning they must have the mental capacity to make a legal decision. If it can be proved that one party was not of sound mind at the time of the wedding, the marriage can be annulled.
- Physical incapacity. An inability to consummate the marriage is also grounds for annulment in California if the incapacity continues and appears to be incurable.
In general, you have four years from the date of the marriage to file for an annulment, but there are exceptions depending on the reason for the annulment. When someone is seeking an annulment based on one of these claims, they will have to provide evidence of their claim. Courts do not hand out annulments easily. Working with a divorce attorney is the best way to ensure that you are adequately prepared for the proceedings.
Why You Might Want an Annulment
As we have explained, simply regretting that the marriage ever took place is not enough for a judge to grant an annulment. One of the more common reasons for wanting an annulment is that divorce is not recognized in certain religions, and a divorced person would not be able to remarry in their religion. However, this is also not a sufficient reason for a legal annulment in California. You would also have to prove that one of the above conditions existed by providing sufficient evidence to a judge.
Nathan Law Offices Support Women Who Want to End Their Marriage
At Nathan Law Offices, we exclusively represent women in divorce, custody, and spousal support matters. If you believe you have grounds for an annulment, contact our team to find out what your options are. It’s possible that even if you don’t qualify for an annulment, we can help you secure a divorce that accomplishes similar goals and meets your need for a clean break from your spouse. Call our Marin County office or fill out our contact form to get in touch with us today.