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:
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
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.
A party was under the age of lawful consent (typically under age 18) and
did not get parental/court consent
This usually deals with a party who is unable to understand the subject
mater of the marriage/domestic partner contract and obligations.
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.
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.
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.