How to Get an Annulment in California

In California, there are two ways to legally end a marriage – annulment OR Divorce (legal dissolution of a marriage). An annulment is a legal procedure which cancels a marriage between a man and a woman.

Annulling a marriage is as though it is completely erased

ANNULMENT – Annulling a marriage is as though it is completely erased – legally, it declares that the marriage never technically existed and was never valid.

The 6-month waiting period doesn’t apply for an Annulment – or a Legal Separation. Nor do the other 2 requirements: you DO NOT have to live in California for six months or your county for three months before filing.

Annulment — Valid Reasons Required

Annulment: An annulment (or “nullity of marriage” or “nullity of domestic partnership”) is when the court rules your marriage or domestic partnership is NOT legally valid. After an annulment, it is like your marriage or domestic partnership never happened because it was never legal.

Legal Reasons for an Annulment:

  • Incestuous: when the people who are married or in a registered domestic partnership are close blood relatives; or
  • Bigamous: when a spouse or partner is already married or in a domestic partnership with another person.
  • A Minor at the time of marriage: the party filing for the annulment was under 18 years of age at the time of the marriage or domestic partnership.
  • Prior existing marriage or domestic partnership: Either party was already legally married or in a registered domestic partnership.
  • Unsound mind: when either party was of “unsound mind” or unable to understand the nature of the marriage or domestic partnership.
  • Fraud: Either party got married or registered the domestic partnership as a result of fraud such as marrying JUST to get a green card or hiding the fact that either party is unable to conceive a child.
  • Force: either party consented to getting married or filing a domestic partnership as a result of physical or psychological force.
  • Physical incapacity: when ONE of the parties who got married or registered in a domestic partnership was “physically incapacitated.” Cannot or refuses to consummate the relationship (have sex).

In order to get an annulment – you must be able to prove to the family law judge that at least ONE of these reasons is true in your case. Proving that there is even ONE legally valid reason to get an annulment can be very difficult. You should absolutely consult with an attorney. Call us at (818) 901-8900 and schedule an appointment.

If you are granted an annulment – it is as though your marriage never existed. You may be able to get an annulment if you married when you were a minor without the consent of your parents or guardian, or if certain types of fraud or deceit were involved. If you want an annulment, however, you will have to appear in court for a trial.

Annulment — Statute of Limitations to File

Statute of Limitations: The term “statute of limitations” is the legal term for a “deadline” for filing a lawsuit. While legal separations and actual divorces do not have a deadline, annulments DO have a deadline. If the statute of limitations “runs out” on your relationship situation you can NOT file for an annulment.

All law seems to be complicated. The various statute of limitations for an annulment is no different. The deadlines vary depending on the acceptable reason why someone desires an annulment.

Here is a list if the DEADLINES (statutes of limitations) – for the list of acceptable reasons to request an annulment in the first place:

Age at the time of marriage or domestic partnership: Any person who was married or entered into a domestic partnership while a minor (i.e. under 18 years of age) must file for annulment within 4-years after reaching 18. NOTE: A parent or guardian of a minor can request an annulment while the minor is under 18.

Bigamous – Prior existing marriage or domestic partnership: An annulment if one or the other parties was still married, means that a request can be filed by either party as long as both parties to the current marriage/partnership are alive.

Unsound mind: When either party was of “unsound mind” an annulment can be filed by the party claiming that his or her spouse or domestic partner is of unsound mind. NOTE: A relative or conservator of the party of unsound mind can file an annulment request too — at any time before the death of either party.

Fraud: If you find out that your spouse married you JUST to get a green card; or you discovered that your spouse is unable to pro-create and you wanted children – in these two examples or other similar cases of fraud, the person who was deceived can request an annulment. The case must be filed within 4-years of learning of the fraud.

Force: An annulment that is requested on grounds of being forced to be married can only be filed by the person who was forced to give consent. The case must be filed within 4 years of getting married or registering the domestic partnership.

Physical incapacity: Such a claim results when one party cannot or refuses to consummate the relationship (i.e. have sex). In such an situation, an annulment can be filed by the party claiming that his or her spouse or domestic partner is physically incapacitated. The case must be filed within 4 years of getting married or registering the domestic partnership.

Annulments Get Complicated with Children & Property! Child Custody, Visitation, Child Support and Property Division issues resulting from an Annulment are complicated and require the legal expertise of skilled attorneys such as Nemiroff & Cohen who are not only Certified Family Law Attorneys, but are 100% focused on Family Law issues such as annulments.

Annulment — Children Don’t Exist by Law!

If you request and are granted an annulment – and you and your spouse or domestic partner have children together, because annulment is AS IF THERE NEVER WAS A MARRIAGE, the law then presumes that any children born during that marriage or domestic partnership legally do not exist. The result of this incongruity is that if you get an annulment, you must also request the judge to establish parentage (paternity) for any children you have in common with the other party. This becomes very complicated and involved to where you really need to consult with an experienced family law attorney.

Annulment — Child Custody, Visitation & Child Support

During the annulment process – not only will you request that the judge to establish parentage, but once the parentage is legally established, then the next step, if necessary, is to request the judge to make orders about child custody, child visitation, and child support.

Annulment — Division of Property & Spousal Support

Unfortunately, just like the incongruity with children – the same issues arise with property! When you request and are awarded an annulment, that means that BY LAW, your marriage or domestic partnership NEVER HAPPENED! It makes sense, then that any legal rights to community property do not apply. If you get an annulment, 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. You will need to consult an attorney before requesting an annulment, or you might regret the outcome based on assumptions that are totalled flawed.

SPOUSAL OR PARTNER SUPPORT – Same as above, where community property does not apply to a marriage or domestic partnership that the law agrees NEVER HAPPENED… The same goes for any claim or right to be awarded spousal or partner support including other benefits that accrue in a “typical divorce” where one spouse has community property claims to a portion of the other spouse’s pension or retirement benefits.

A “PUTATIVE” EXCEPTION – There are circumstances where a spouse defrauded into a marriage what is later proven to be an invalid marriage or domestic partnership may petition a judge to rule for “putative” spouse or domestic partner status. This means that the victim spouse may have the right to community property, spousal and/or child support, and other benefits afforded to those who are more-commonly divorcing from a legitimate marriage or domestic partnership. Unfortunately, to prove you have “putative” spouse or partner status can be complicated and you should seek the help of a family law attorney. You will have to prove to a judge that you had a good faith belief that the marriage or domestic partnership was legal under California law.

Nemiroff & Cohen – Protecting Your Rights – Reducing Your Stress!

To resolve any of these complex issues involved in seeking an annulment, you need a qualified and experienced divorce lawyer on your side. Lauren Nemiroff and Gail Cohen are both Board-Certified Family Law Specialists with the experience that makes a difference for our clients. We have helped literally thousands of people in the San Fernando Valley successfully emerge from a divorce, even when the process appeared overwhelming at first. Divorce will not always be easy, but with us on your side, you’ll have the support you need to be confident going forward.

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