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Can I Get an Annulment?

Posted By Edwin Castellanos || 8-Aug-2014

There are many misconceptions about how to get an annulment (“nullity of marriage” or “nullity of domestic partnership”) in California. For some prospective clients, the annulment option might seem like the easy way out of a bad marriage, or there is an underlying belief there is less of a stigma associated with annulment when compared to divorce.

Whatever you might think, it is important to understand the specific grounds that would permit you to petition for a judgment of nullity in California.

What is a nullity proceeding?

Petitioning the court for a judgment of nullity (as opposed to a marriage dissolution) in California is not as easy at one might think, and you should pursue this option only when the validity of your marriage is doubt. California law permits a “no fault” divorce so proving grounds for dissolution of marriage is relatively simple as compared to the annulment option. When you petition for marital dissolution, in most cases you need only establish you do not get along (“irreconcilable differences”) with the other party. In sharp contrast, when a client is considering “annulment,” it is important for them to understand that proving statutory grounds may be more difficult and costly to obtain a judgment of nullity.

For example, a prospective client may come into the office believing a short-term marriage; infidelity or substance abuse makes them eligible for a judgment of nullity. That is simply not the case. Whether you have been married for 30 days or fifty years, you only qualify for a judgment of nullity if you meet the requirements laid out under California statutes. However, in a nullity proceeding, the issue of “fault” in a marriage does play a role, especially when dealing with issues of support and attorney fees and costs.

In addition, California usually requires a court hearing to obtain a judgment of nullity. If you petition the Court for a judgment of nullity an appearance is going to be required and testimony will be taken.

What is specifically required under California law?

In California, a marriage is NOT legally valid when it is the result of one of the following:

Incest

California law prohibits a marriage or domestic partnership between parents and children, ancestors and descendants of every degree, brothers and sisters (half or whole blood), or uncles and nieces or aunts and nephews. These marital relationships are incestuous and void from the beginning in California.

Bigamy

A subsequent marriage or domestic partnership is illegal and void from the beginning if either spouse or domestic partner has a spouse or domestic partner still living unless the former marriage/partnership was dissolved or a judgment of nullity granted before the date of the subsequent marriage or domestic partnership.

Minority

A party was under the age of lawful consent (typically under age 18) and did not get parental/court consent

Unsound mind

This usually deals with a party who is unable to understand the subject mater of the marriage/domestic partner contract and obligations.

Fraud

In order to have a Judgment of nullity based on fraud a party would have to prove the fraud to be extreme such as a particular fraud that “goes to the essence” of the marital relationship. For example, judgment of nullity usually goes to a type of fraud relating in some way to sexual, procreative or child-rearing aspects of a marriage.

Force

This occurs when a party’s consent to marry obtained by “force.” A possible exception might be where a party who was originally coerced into marriage freely cohabitates after the marriage.

Physical incapacity

This is usually when a party was not physically capable of entering into the marriage such as an inability to engage in normal copulation and the incapacity is not likely to be cured during the marriage.

How do I get help with an annulment?

You can get help with an annulment today by contact a divorce attorney from our office to discuss all of your options. The specific facts and circumstances of your case must be considered very carefully before petitioning the court for a judgment of nullity. If you have questions about whether you are eligible to obtain an annulment in California, or if you would like to learn more about the divorce process, you may want to consider requesting a free initial consultation with a lawyer from our office to discuss the details of your case and to better understand all of your options.

Categories: Divorce, Marriage, English