What are the Grounds for a Marriage Annulment?
An annulment in California is a legal procedure that declares that marriage is null and void. Legally an annulment is when a family court rules that your marriage or domestic partnership is not legally valid.
After an annulment, your marriage is considered it never happened because it was never legal. There are two marriage annulments: a civil annulment that the court issues and a religious annulment.
This article will focus on a California civil marriage annulment. You should contact your clergymen regarding the requirements for a religious annulment.
An annulment is crucial as it's not the same as a traditional divorce that dissolves a marriage. Instead, an annulment erases a marriage union from history.
It deems a marriage invalid, and it's like it never existed in the first place, and you won't have a presumption of paternity from any children that were conceived.
It also means you will not be able to ask the family court for child support or spousal support from your partner. However, there are situations where annulling a marriage is the right choice, but you should first make an effort to understand the consequences of such a critical decision fully.
A marriage annulment is typically a result of voidable or void marriages described as the following:
- A void marital union is one that was never legal in the first place and did not even count as a marriage;
- A voidable marital union is considered valid until it's annulled.
While a void marital union was not legal from the beginning, you could still have complicated issues related to child custody, child support, and visitation. Our California divorce and family law attorneys will review this topic in more detail below.
When Will a Judge Grant a Request to Annul a Marriage?
The common question is, what are the grounds for seeking an annulment? There are numerous potential reasons for annulling a marriage in California, including any of the following:
- The couple is related to each other, known as “incest;”
- One spouse is already married, known as “bigamy;”
- Person requesting annulment was not 18 when married;
- One spouse was coerced into getting married;
- Either spouse was forced to get married;
- Either spouse committed fraud to get the other person to consent to marriage, and the fraud was the primary reason for the marriage, such as getting married for a green card or to stay in the United States;
- Either spouse has an incurable physical incapacity, such as male impotence;
- Either spouse is not of sound mind or has a mental illness, including severe intoxication, preventing them from understanding the responsibilities and duties of a marriage.
In the context of a marriage annulment, “coercion” and “force” will be based on the case's specific details. Perhaps there were nonviolent threats that forced consent, threats of bodily harm, or actual physical force.
Suppose someone is asking the court to annul their marriage. In that case, they will have the burden of proof to show the judge that at least one of the reasons listed above existed when they were married.
Annulment proceedings in California are the same as a divorce, as it begins when one spouse files a petition for annulment that asks the court to declare the marriage voided.
What Does the Law Say?
California Family Code 2200 says, “Marriages between parents and children, ancestors and descendants, and between siblings of the half as well as the whole blood, and between uncles or aunts and nieces or nephews, are incestuous, and void from the beginning, whether the relationship is legitimate or illegitimate.”
California Family Code 302 says, “(a) An unmarried male or female under 18 years is capable of consenting to and consummating marriage upon obtaining a court order granting permission to the underage person or persons to marry.”
California Family Code 2210(f) says, “A marriage is voidable and may be adjudged a nullity if any of the following conditions existed at the time of the marriage: (f) Either party was, at the time of marriage, physically incapable of entering into the marriage state, and that incapacity continues and appears to be incurable.”
Further, subsection (c) says if “Either party was of unsound mind, unless the party of unsound mind, after coming to reason, freely cohabited with the other as their spouse.”
California Family Code 2210(d) covers an annulment on the grounds of fraud, meaning either party's consent to enter the marital union based on fraudulent grounds. You must file your petition within four years of discovering the facts of the fraud.
Family Code section 2211(b) covers an annulment on the grounds of bigamy, meaning a wife or husband is already married to someone else.
How Can You File an Annulment Petition?
You need to file your California annulment petition (form FL-100) with the court within your county of residence before the statute of limitations expires, which will vary based on the grounds for filing it in the first place.
For example, you have four years to file a petition for marriage annulment based on the use of force, fraud, unsound mind, physical incapacity, or age.
Just like a traditional divorce proceeding, you must file proper documents for the family law court to approve the annulment request, such as:
- Reasons for the annulment;
- Background information;
- Terms to include in judgment.
Suppose you need the family court to grant a divorce if they decide not to grant your annulment petition. In that case, you will check the “dissolution” and “nullity” boxes on the petition form.
You will also need to formally inform your spouse about the annulment petition within thirty days of filing, and they will have 30 days to file a response. Finally, you must achieve an uncontested proceeding by agreeing with your spouse or default.
The family court will approve it and issue an official order as long as the annulment petition is valid with the proper documents. If the court denies your petition, then the marriage union remains lawful.
How Can a Family Law Attorney Help You?
The rules regarding annulments in California can get complicated. Some of the common issues include the following:
- What about establishing the paternity of children?
- What about child custody and support?
- What about permanent sole child custody?
- What about a father's visitation rights?
- What about dividing debts or property?
- What about spousal support?
California's community and separate property laws might also need to be addressed.
Hence, it would be best if you did not go through the process alone. Instead, getting advice and legal guidance from an experienced family law attorney would be best.
We can examine the specific facts of your annulment petition and help you with the filing process. We have many years of experience representing people in family law matters, including annulment.
Contact us to know your options if you believe you have a valid reason to annul your marriage. In the event you are not eligible for an annulment, we can help you obtain a divorce.
As noted, to seek an annulment, you first need to discuss all the details with a lawyer to understand all the relevant laws and legal options. A divorce may be the better option for you and your family. We offer a free case consultation via phone or the contact form. Furman & Zavatsky are located in Los Angeles County, CA.