In the realm of personal relationships and the institution of marriage, the concept of annulments stands as a significant but often misunderstood legal process. While divorce is a familiar term to many, annulments offer a distinct and alternative route for couples seeking to dissolve their marriages. Here, we’ll explain what an annulment is, how it’s different from a divorce, who may be eligible for an annulment, and how to file for an annulment in California.
What is an annulment?
An annulment is a legal process that declares a marriage to be void, as if it never existed in the eyes of the law. Unlike divorce, which ends a valid marriage, an annulment essentially erases the marriage from the records, treating it as if it never happened. This legal remedy is available to couples who meet specific criteria that render their marriage legally invalid or voidable.
How does an annulment differ from a divorce?
The key distinction between divorce and annulment lies in their effects on marital status. Divorce acknowledges that a valid marriage once existed but is now dissolved, allowing both parties to be considered divorced individuals. On the other hand, annulments invalidate the marriage entirely, so the parties are legally treated as though they were never married.
Who is eligible for an annulment in California?
In the state of California, obtaining an annulment is a legal process available to couples who meet specific criteria that render their marriage void or voidable. It’s important to note that annulments are not granted automatically and require the party seeking the annulment to present evidence supporting one of the recognized grounds.
The following are some common grounds upon which a marriage may be annulled in California:
- Incestuous marriage: California law prohibits marriages between close blood relatives, such as siblings, or parents and children. If a marriage falls within the prohibited degree of relationship, it may be annulled.
- Bigamous or polygamous marriage: If one or both spouses were already legally married to someone else at the time of the marriage, the subsequent marriage is considered bigamous or polygamous and can be annulled.
- Underage marriage: California law sets a minimum age for marriage, and if one or both parties were underage at the time of marriage without proper parental or court consent, the marriage can be annulled.
- Unsound mind or incapacity: If one or both spouses lacked the mental capacity to understand the nature and obligations of marriage at the time of the wedding, the marriage may be voidable.
- Fraud or misrepresentation: An annulment may be granted if one party deceived the other into marriage through lies or misrepresentation about a significant matter, such as their identity, intentions, or important facts.
- Force or duress: If one spouse was forced or coerced into the marriage against their will, the marriage may be annulled.
There are time limits within which annulments must be sought after the marriage. Failure to meet the time limits may result in the loss of the right to seek an annulment on that ground.
How to get an annulment in California
At Lonich Patton Ehrlich Policastri, our experienced attorneys specialize in annulment. You can trust us to handle your annulment situation in a way that represents you and your interests.
Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter.