How to Get an Annulment in California

How to Get a California Annulment of Marriage

Getting an annulment in California involves a legal process where a marriage is declared null and void as if it never happened. Unlike divorce, which ends a legally valid marriage, an annulment is a declaration that the marriage was never legally valid to begin with due to specific grounds. Here are the steps and requirements to obtain an annulment in California:

1. Determine if You Qualify for an Annulment

To get an annulment in California, you must prove at least one of the following grounds:

  • Bigamy: One spouse was already married to someone else at the time of the marriage.
  • Incest: The spouses are closely related by blood.
  • Underage: One of the spouses was under 18 at the time of marriage and did not have the requisite consent.
  • Prior Existing Marriage: One spouse had a living spouse at the time of marriage, from whom they were not legally divorced.
  • Force: One spouse was forced into the marriage.
  • Fraud: One spouse was tricked into the marriage based on significant deception about something vital to the marriage.
  • Physical Incapacity: One spouse is physically incapable of consummating the marriage, and the condition is incurable.
  • Unsound Mind: One or both spouses were unable to understand the nature of the marriage due to mental illness or incapacity.

2. File a Petition for Nullity of Marriage

The next step is to file a Petition for Nullity of Marriage (Form FL-100) with the Superior Court in the county where either spouse resides. You will need to provide details about your marriage and the grounds for annulment. Additional forms may be required depending on your specific circumstances.

3. Serve Your Spouse

After filing the petition, you must serve your spouse with the documents. This involves delivering a copy of the paperwork to your spouse in a manner that complies with California law, typically done by someone else who is over the age of 18 and not involved in the case.

4. Provide Proof of Grounds for Annulment

You must be prepared to present evidence supporting the grounds for your annulment request. This may include witness testimony, written documents, or other relevant proof.

5. Attend the Court Hearing

A court hearing will be scheduled where you must present your case for annulment. The judge will review the evidence and decide whether to grant the annulment based on the grounds presented.

6. Obtain the Judgment of Nullity

If the court grants your annulment, you will receive a Judgment of Nullity of Marriage. This document officially annuls your marriage.

Important Considerations

  • Statute of Limitations: There are time limits for filing an annulment based on certain grounds. For instance, annulments based on age must be filed before the underage spouse turns 22.
  • Children and Property: If there are children or property involved, you may need to resolve issues related to custody, support, and property division as part of the annulment process.
  • Legal Assistance: Given the complexity of annulment laws and the need to prove specific grounds, consulting with a family law attorney is advisable to navigate the process effectively.

Annulments can be more complex than divorces because they require proving specific legal grounds. Understanding the requirements and seeking professional legal assistance can help ensure the process is handled correctly.

What qualifies you for an annulment in California?

An annulment of Marriage does not have the same effects as a divorce; since an annulment is the virtual wiping away of a marriage from history. After an annulment, it is as if the marriage never occurred in the court’s eyes. You will no longer have the presumption of paternity over children conceived during the marriage or have the right to demand child support from a spouse.

Let’s say you’ve only been married a few weeks. And now all you want is to get it annulled. For starters, an annulment is not based on how long you have been married. Even if you’ve only been married a few weeks or months, you may not be able to prove to a judge that your specific case involves a valid legal reason that makes the marriage invalid. The courts may find a marriage invalid for a variety of reasons, including:

  1. The marriage is incestuous because the people are related by blood.
  2. The marriage is bigamous because one spouse is already married to someone else.
  3. At the time of the marriage, one party was under the age of 18 (the legal age of consent varies by state)
  4. One party was legally married to someone else, but the partner was absent for 5 or more years and the party didn’t know if their spouse was dead or alive, but generally, the absent spouse was thought to be dead. This is different than bigamy.
  5. One of the parties was “of unsound mind” or could not understand the nature of the marriage, and this includes the marital obligations involved.
  6. Either party got married as a result of fraud, a fraud that is vital to the relationship. (i.e. marriage for a green card, lying about the ability to have children)
  7. Either party was forced to get married.
  8. One of the spouses is physically incapable of having sexual relations and this incapacity continues and appears that it cannot be cured.

Getting an annulment does not depend on how long you have been married or in a domestic partnership. Even if you have been married/in a partnership only a very short time, you may not be able to prove to the judge that your case possesses one of the legal reasons that makes your marriage/partnership invalid.

California Annulment Time Limit

It’s critical to understand that in California, there’s a deadline (known in legal terminology as a “statute of limitations”) which sets a time limit on when annulments can be filed. The deadline depends on the reason why you want the annulment.

Proving that there is a legally valid reason to get an annulment can be very difficult. Talk to a lawyer for help understanding exactly what you need to show to a judge before he or she will agree to give you an annulment.

Rights and obligations relating to property and debt

When you claim that a marriage or domestic partnership is not legally valid, you are also saying that the legal rights and duties of community property laws in California do not apply. This means that you and the other party cannot rely on community property laws to divide any property or debt that you accumulated while you were married or in a domestic partnership.

It also means that you would not have the right to spousal or partner support, or other benefits like the right to a portion of the other person’s pension or retirement benefits.

There is an exception: Someone in an invalid marriage or domestic partnership may have “putative” spouse or domestic partner status. This means that they may have the right to community property, support, and other property-related benefits. To prove you have “putative” spouse or partner status can be complicated. You will have to prove that you had a good faith belief that the marriage or domestic partnership was legal under California law. Talk to a lawyer if this is your situation.

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