No one enters into a marriage intending for it to end in separation. However, sometimes marriages don’t work out, and couples find themselves considering a divorce. While divorces are more common, they can be a difficult and expensive process. Annulments are another option that some couples may want to consider, though they are not without their own set of challenges.
So, is an annulment better than a divorce? The answer depends on your individual circumstances. Knowing the details of both options and the regulations within California for who qualifies for an annulment or a divorce can help you make the best decision for yourself and your situation.
What is the difference between an annulment and a divorce?
The core difference between an annulment and a divorce is that an annulment voids a marriage, so it’s as if it never happened. Meanwhile, a divorce recognizes the existence of a marriage and is a legal dissolution of said marriage.
The primary consideration in deciding whether an annulment or a divorce is most suitable for your situation is to evaluate the reason, or grounds, for the separation.
Several common reasons are often cited when couples seek a divorce, including imprisonment, abandonment, adultery, or irreconcilable differences. Couples can also seek a no-fault divorce, in which both parties agree that neither party is responsible for actions that lead to the divorce.
Meanwhile, annulments typically occur when either one or both persons have reason to believe that the wedding should not have happened at all. In the state of California, there are several possible “grounds” for an annulment, including situations where a person has been coerced to marry, either partner is engaging in bigamy, either person is unable to make a sound decision due to mental disability or substance abuse, or either person is underage, in an incestuous situation, or related by blood.
A common misconception is that marriages that have only lasted a brief amount of time can qualify for an annulment, but that isn’t always the case. For an annulment to be granted, it must be proven in court that extenuating circumstances such as one of the conditions outlined above occurred. Given these more stringent annulment requirements, they are typically a less common option for couples looking to separate.
Annulments in California
One key difference when seeking an annulment instead of a divorce is that there are not the same guidelines requiring division of property as there would be in traditional divorce proceedings. When an annulment occurs, both parties are typically reverted to their pre-marriage financial state. They wouldn’t split assets like property or monetary holdings in the same way that might happen with a traditional divorce.
However, California does consider the existence of the putative spouse, or a person who, in good faith, was under the belief that the marriage was legal. In these situations, a judge may intervene to divide property and other assets and make a ruling on eligibility for spousal support, which is not typically awarded during an annulment.
Additionally, children born during a marriage that is later annulled are still considered “legitimate” children. Therefore, they remain entitled to parental support from both parents, though a judge may need to step in to clearly define parental rights.
However, California has legal statutes called “presumptions of paternity,” where it is accepted that while a marriage may have been invalid, the husband is the children’s father. This makes it less of a challenge to establish paternity.
Do I need a lawyer for an annulment?
It’s always a good idea to have experienced representation for any legal matter. A seasoned attorney can guide you through the separation process and help determine whether a divorce or an annulment is the right solution for your situation.
If you are looking for help navigating the legal process for a divorce or annulment in California, contact the expert team at Lonich Patton Ehrlich Policastri at 408-553-0801 to schedule a free consultation today.