Knowing More About Annulment

Divorce isn’t always the answer to the question of ending a marriage. Depending on the circumstances of your marriage, you have another option that’s referred to as an annulment. Maybe your partner was already legally married when entering into a marriage with you. Perhaps you’ve discovered that your marriage was founded on fraud, unbeknownst to you. Considering annulment means that you seriously suspect your marriage to be illegitimate. Annulment is a form of legal separation that is granted in the case of one of many specific reasons. As long as you meet one of the annulment requirements, then you’re eligible for annulment.

Marriage is a beautiful thing. The bond of a shared life is one of the most special experiences that life has to offer. Yet some marriages just aren’t good for one or both partners. Now you’re feeling that it’s time to call it quits with your marriage or domestic partnership.

An annulment is a legal update to the status of either a marriage or domestic partnership between two individuals that asserts lack of validity to the marriage. An annulment, in California, is known as “the nullity of marriage.” Once an annulment is granted, the marriage is considered to have never existed in the eyes of the law. Therefore, annulment and divorce are distinguished by one key difference: an annulment voids the existence of a marriage, while a divorce terminates an existing marriage. Since an annulment establishes that the marriage or domestic partnership didn’t legally exist, any record of the marriage will be effectively removed.

What do you need to qualify for an annulment vs. divorce in California?

People seek annulment for a variety of reasons. Some people do not want the stigma associated with divorce. Others want their marriage annulled for religious reasons or so they can get remarried in the church. California has established a number of requirements for granting annulments:

  • One spouse was under the age of consent (18) and did not obtain parental permission prior to the marriage
  • Incest
  • One spouse was married at the time the marriage occurred
  • One partner was of unsound mind at the time of the marriage
  • Fraud
  • Bigamy
  • One partner threatened acts of harm to force a partner into marriage
  • The marriage was never consummated as a result of incapacity

Many people mistakenly believe that the length of marriage has an impact on whether it can be voided. As long as the marriage meets one of the grounds of annulment, it is a voidable marriage. Thus, many long-term marriages can be annulled and some people married for only a short time must seek a divorce. Because divorce is easier than an annulment and can be achieved with a simple claim of irreconcilable differences, most people prefer divorce to an annulment. However, when a client wants to annul a marriage for religious or personal reasons, our attorneys have the experience to pursue that option vigorously.

How Do Children Affect Annulments?

Any children born of the annulled marriage are treated as children of single parents. If the annulment is granted, establishment of parentage must also be requested from the court. To be clear, the children from an annulled marriage continue to be recognized as legitimate. A knowledgeable annulment attorney from our team can walk you through establishing parentage and how to navigate details including custody, visitation, and child support.

How Does Religion Factors into Annulments?

Depending on your faith and religious views, annulment is an appealing option for ending a marriage. Religions such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, have their own customs for ending a marriage outside of civil litigation. In addition, divorce is traditionally considered as a last resort in many religions. Fortunately, annulment isn’t the same as a divorce because a successful annulment considers the marriage to have never existed. If you meet any of the annulment requirements and you’re of faith, then annulment is most likely a better choice for you over divorce.

How to File for Annulment

The first step toward marriage annulment is to ensure you make the deadline for annulment based on the statute of limitations. All annulment requirements have their own specific statute of limitations that you can learn more about here.

Next, you’ll need to fill out the appropriate forms for ending a marriage, which are the same forms used in divorce. Proving that you have a valid reason for annulment can be challenging, which is why even the state of California’s own informational resources advise that you speak with an annulment lawyer to determine whether or not you qualify for annulment. 

Once all necessary forms are complete, make at least two copies of all documents and file the originals and one set of copies with the court clerk. California law requires your spouse or domestic partner is notified that you’ve started the process for annulment. To notify your spouse or domestic partner is to “serve” copies of all court documents. You must designate someone (other than yourself) who is 18 or older to serve your annulment papers. This person can be a friend, relative, county sheriff, or process server.

You can find clear, detailed instructions provided by the California court system for requesting or opposing an annulment here. If you have a partner who is requesting an annulment, you can find instructions for responding to an annulment here. Anyone who is served an annulment has 30 days to respond. After you receive a response to your request for annulment, you must attend a hearing. We recommend having an experienced annulment attorney on your side throughout the entire annulment process–especially the hearing. Our experienced attorneys take great care in speaking for our clients and making sure that they are represented with respect and dignity.

Why You Need An Annulment Attorney

Marriage annulments are tricky. Dealing with the complex issues that arise from factors involved in a marriage or domestic partnership such as children, property, and debt are a burden without the right guidance. Because an annulment identifies the marriage or domestic partnership as null and void, California community property laws don’t apply to the distribution of shared and personal property. Hiring an annulment lawyer can be especially beneficial for this particular portion of annulment, since couples are responsible for separating their property, assets, and debts.

An individual involved in the annulment may be recognized as a “putative spouse,” meaning that he or she may be entitled alimony, divided marital property, and community support via the court. You must be identified as a good faith spouse in order to enjoy these marital benefits. Claiming putative status is not straightforward, so hiring an annulment attorney will make all the difference.

You have so much to consider and so much on the line when it comes to ending a marriage. The right way to go about annulment is to hire an experienced attorney.

We’re Here For You

At Lonich Patton Ehrlich Policastri, we have decades of experience working in family law throughout the Bay Area, from San Jose to Santa Cruz. You can trust us to handle your annulment situation in a way that represents you and your interests. We will make sure you understand what’s going on every step of the way by explaining the pieces that make up the legal process clearly.

Your first time meeting that special someone is unforgettable–your separation from them shouldn’t be. We’ve all heard of ugly divorces and the legal proceedings that come as a result, but ending your legal partnership doesn’t have to be messy. Our commitment to our clients is a century strong, with a collective 100 years of experience in litigation at Lonich Patton Ehrlich Policastri. You can rest assured that we have the experience and skill to handle your annulment so that the process is smooth and manageable.

Set up a free 30-minute consultation to find out if you need an annulment lawyer. Contact us today!