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How to Get Your Marriage Annulled in California


— March 11, 2021

While there are several ways to annul a marriage, this is not easy to obtain. Therefore, it would be best to contact a lawyer and have them take over your case.


Sometimes marriage is just not meant to be, other times, it was never meant to be. There are other alternatives to ending it than divorce and separation. One can also file for an annulment. If you decide to choose this path you must bear in mind that, unlike with divorce, there is a deadline for annulling a marriage. A set of forms must be submitted to court either by you or a lawyer before the limit for your specific case is up.

About Annulments

Annulments are different from divorces. While divorces acknowledge a marriage and aim to end it, annulments question the very nature of marriage on grounds of enforceability and validity. 

There are many reasons considered valid for California annulments. Here are the main ones:

  • Physical incapacity: physically impaired to meet the marriage state.
  • Unsound mind: one of the partners was not able to fully comprehend the terms of the marriage.
  • Fraud: consent for marriage was obtained fraudulently. This is one of the most common reasons for annulment in California.
  • Force: an individual was forced into consent.
  • Bigamy: either of the spouses is married to another person.
  • Incest: incestuous marriages between relatives is always a valid reason for annulment.
  • Minority: the consent to marry was given by someone who is under 18 years old.

How and When to File for an Annulment

Obtaining an annulment is not that different procedurally than a divorce. |However, unlike in divorce cases, there is no required minimum residency period. One mandatory condition to meet when filing for an annulment in California is to live there. You can file the case yourself or contact a lawyer to represent you.

Graphic of man and woman sitting in different rooms, separated by a wall; graphic by Mohamed Hassan, via Pixabay.com.
Graphic of man and woman sitting in different rooms, separated by a wall; graphic by Mohamed Hassan, via Pixabay.com.

The California court offers an in-depth guide on how to proceed with filing for an annulment. Here are the main steps:

  • Fill out court forms in at least two copies.
  • File the forms with the clerk.
  • Serve the court forms.
  • Request a court hearing.

When initiating proceedings, you must keep in mind that California has a statute of limitations, meaning that there are time limits to respect. The deadline for filing the forms varies based on the reason for the annulment.

  • Physical incapacity: within the first four years of marriage.
  • Unsound mind: any time. 
  • Fraud: within the first four years after uncovering fraud.
  • Force: first four years of the marriage.
  • Bigamy: forms have to be filed while the person from the other marriage is still alive.
  • Minority: within the first four years after turning 18.

What Happens After an Annulment?

An annulment does not come with the same set of obligations for partners as divorce or separation. This is on account of the one fundamental difference that annulment does not recognize the marriage as such. 

Property

After the annulment, a spouse does not necessarily have access to financial support and the other partner’s retirement benefits and pension. What is more, property and debt cannot be divided between partners based on California community laws. If you are not on good terms, this can be a delicate situation to handle. It is best to have a lawyer on your side and to come up with a plan for tackling this issue together.

Children

Since an annulment absolves the state of marriage, it also implies that any children conceived during that period do not necessarily belong to the couple. Procedure dictates to conduct a paternity test as a way to establish parentage. After the results are in, the next step is to decide on child support, custody, and visitation.

The Judgement of Nullity

Upon filing for annulment, you are hoping for a judgment of nullity. This means that the court accepted your plea and recognized the marriage as void. However, to obtain a favorable outcome, there must be sufficient evidence for one of the reasons mentioned above. Furthermore, based on the specifics of the case, the judgment can include decisions on property and the child of the parties involved.

Contact a Lawyer

While there are several ways to annul a marriage, this is not easy to obtain. Therefore, it would be best to contact a lawyer and have them take over your case. Their in-depth knowledge of the legal system can help you obtain your goal.

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