An annulment declares a marriage void, meaning it never existed in the first place. Annulment is often misunderstood or used interchangeably with divorce. The key difference between the two is that divorce ends a marriage that exists, while an annulment declares a marriage not legal, and thus, to have never existed. You cannot legally marry another person if you are currently married, force your spouse into marriage, or commit fraud to receive some form of benefit.
Reasons for an Annulment
There are several reasons why a judge would allow a request to annul the marriage. They are as follows:
- Married couple is related by blood
- Bigamy (one spouse was still married before marrying again)
- One spouse was underage (under 18 years old)
- Impotence (prevents the couple from having a sexual relationship)
- One or both spouses were not of sound mind (this could be due to a mental condition or being under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol)
- Force (one spouse forced the other to get married)
The spouse wishing to obtain the annulment must have burden of proof to show the judge he/she has a valid reason to annul the marriage.
The Process of Filing for Annulment
The process of obtaining an annulment is like the process of divorce. If you are married and currently reside in California, you can file your annulment in the state. However, unlike a divorce, there is no residency requirement to file an annulment. Here are the steps to obtain an annulment:
- Consult with an experienced lawyer
- Fill out your court forms (there are additional forms to fill out if you have children)
- Write a declaration explaining why you are requesting an annulment
- Have your lawyer review your paperwork
- Make at least 2 copies of all your forms
- File your forms with the court clerk and pay the filing fee
- Serve your spouse the paperwork (you cannot do so, but a friend, relative, County sheriff, or process server can)
- File your proof of service
- Wait 30 days for your spouse to respond
- Ask for a court hearing (the judge will decide whether to award an annulment to you or not during this time)
Statute of Limitations
There are certain time limitations to file for an annulment in California. These are as follows:
- If you are filing due to being underage at the time of the marriage, you have within 4 years after you turn 18 to do so
- If you are filing due to bigamy, you and your spouse can file for an annulment at any point if the spouse from the first marriage is still alive
- If you are filing due to fraud, you have within 4 years to do so from the time you first discovered the fraud
- If you are filing due to having an unsound mind, you can file at any time before you or your spouse die
- If you are filing because you were forced to consent to marriage, you have within 4 years of being married to make your request
- If you are filing due to impotence, you must do so within 4 years of getting married
Obligations Regarding Children and Custody
It is important to note that if you and your spouse (or domestic partner) have children together and decide to annul your marriage, you will need to establish parentage. An experienced lawyer will be able to guide you through this step. Additionally, you will want to consider how matters such as child custody, visitation, and child support will work post annulment.
Reach out online or call our office at (949) 577-7935 to learn more about our annulment services.