Annulment Requirements in California

By Christine Funk, J.D.

Annulment Requirements in California

By Christine Funk, J.D.

An annulment is different than a divorce, in that in a divorce, the parties end a legal marriage. In an annulment, on the other hand, the court rules the marriage was never legally valid. In other words, the marriage never happened. There are many reasons one may choose an annulment over a divorce. Often people cite religious reasons. There are, however, legal reasons to support an annulment as well.

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Situations Where One May Qualify for Annulment in California

To get a legal annulment in the state of California, one must either be married or in a registered domestic partnership. Additionally, for an annulment, a petitioner must prove one of the following situations is true:

  • Incest: If the married couple or domestic partners are siblings or other close blood relatives.
  • Bigamy: If one spouse is married to someone else or if a domestic partner is in a registered domestic partnership with someone else
  • Minor status: If one of the parties to the marriage or domestic partnership were under the age of 18 at the time of the marriage or domestic partnership
  • Prior existing marriage or domestic partnership: In cases of bigamy, the married partner (or the partner in a registered domestic relationship) knows they are already married or domestically partnered. However, there are some cases where a person was legally married or domestically partnered, and believed their spouse was dead. In this situation, the spouse or domestic partner must not have been heard from in 5 or more years.
  • Unsound mind: If one partner is unable to understand the nature of the marriage or domestic partnership, or the obligations that come with it.
  • Fraud: When something vital to the relationship, which directly affected why the deceived party agreed to get married or enter into a domestic partnership.
  • Force: If one party only consented to marriage or domestic partnership due to force.
  • Physical incapacity: Where one partner was physically incapable of consummating the relationship, where the condition is ongoing and appears incurable.

Statute of Limitations for Filing an Annulment

There is no statute of limitations per se. A couple may be married for a very short period of time yet not qualify for an annulment. Alternatively, a couple may be married for a number of years and, depending on the situation, still qualify. The length of time one has to apply depends on the situation. Currently, the statute of limitations are as follows:

  • Minor Status: When filing for an annulment based on minor status, the annulment must be filed within four years after the minor person reaches the age of 18. The parents of a minor, however, can request an annulment before the person turns 18.
  • Prior Existing Marriage/Partnership: When filing for an annulment based on prior existing marriage or partnership, either party to the current marriage or partnership can file as long as both parties are alive, or a prior existing spouse can apply for the annulment.
  • Fraud: When filing for an annulment based on fraud, the deceived person must file within four years of discovering the deception.
  • Force: When filing for an annulment based on force, the person forced to give consent must file for an annulment within four years of getting married or registered as domestic partners.
  • Physical Incapacity: When filing for an annulment based on physical incapacity, the non-incapacitated person must file for an annulment within four years of the marriage.

Rights and Obligations Post Annulment

Because an annulment negates the marriage, there is no presumption of paternity for children of the marriage. One must establish parentage as part of the proceedings. Then the judge can address custody, visitation, and child support.

Community property laws do not apply to an annulment they way they do to a divorce. There is no right to spousal support or access to a person's pension or retirement benefits in must circumstances.

Choosing the Path Right for You

It might be a good idea to consider both annulment and divorce. Both will accomplish the legal dissolution of the marriage or domestic partnership. There are costs and benefits to both choices. If you decide on an uncontested divorce, this can be accomplished without attorneys. However, because of the rights and responsibilities associated with both choices, it may make sense to consult an attorney.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

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