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What is an Invalid Marriage in California?

Posted by Furman & Zavatsky | Jan 03, 2019

Many people do not realize that getting married in California requires certain administrative steps or formalities to have a legally-binding marriage. When those steps are not followed, the result will be a void or voidable marriage. A void marriage is one that is not recognized by the state of California. A voidable marriage is one that can be declared void by either party to the marriage.

Invalid Marriage in California

The difference between a valid, void, or voidable marriage can be important when parties are contemplating divorce or splitting of marital assets. In simple terms, an invalid marriage is one that the state of California may not recognize as a legal union. There are certain unions that can be considered void and others voidable.

This is important as it can significantly change property ownership situations and future financial planning for the parties involved. If the Los Angeles County family court deems your union invalid, your legal options for separation could change. It's important that you understand the main factors that can make a marriage invalid as it will assist you in planning your future.

To better understand an invalid marriage, it's important to first have a good understanding of what is a valid marriage. The state of California typically will recognize a marriage as valid when the couple obtains a Los Angeles county marriage license and they completed a marriage ceremony with an authorized official. After meeting the terms of licensing, LA County will issue a marriage certificate and they start their lives with each other as a couple.

It's important to note a marriage certificate by itself doesn't always prove you have a valid marriage. As stated above, the state of California considers some marriage licenses completely void, while others are potentially voidable, depending on the specific situation. If you or your spouse have not committed any type of act that would be considered invalid, then your marriage is normally valid. This means in order to end the marriage, you will need to file for a divorce or legal separation as opposed to an annulment.

How to Prove an Invalid Marriage

In order to prove that your marriage is invalid, you have to first be able to identify one of the void or voidable reasons and provide some actual evidence.  It should be noted all voidable marriages include exceptions to the rule. If you are seeking an annulment, you must not only prove the marriage to be voidable, but also file for nullification within the statute of limitations.

If you have a reason to believe your marriage is invalid, you should call our Los Angeles divorce and family law attorneys at Furman & Zavatsky LLP. An invalid marriage can possibly have complicated consequences for anyone who wants to remain married or if you are seeking to separate, divorce, or nullify the union. Our lawyers will need to review the specific details of your situation in order to provide accurate legal advice moving forward. Let's take a closer look below on the steps to void a marriage and which marriages are voidable.

The Steps to Have a Valid Marriage

In order to have a legally-recognized marriage, a couple must obtain a marriage license from the county where the marriage will take place. The ceremony must be performed by an individual given authority by the State of California to perform marriages. The wedding officiant must sign the marriage certificate and send it to the county. If any of these steps are not performed or performed improperly, then the state of California may not recognize the marriage, and it will be considered void.

Void Marriages

In the following situations, the state will find that a marriage is void:

  • Related Spouses. If the spouses are closely related, this is considered incest in the State of California, and the marriage will be found to be void. California Family Code Section 2200 strictly forbids marriage between parents and children, ancestors and descendants of every degree, siblings and half-siblings, and between uncles or aunts and nieces or nephews. California Penal Code Section 285 further makes incest a crime.
  • In the State of California, a person cannot have more than one valid marriage at the same time. California Family Code Section 2201 strictly forbids bigamy. It is perfectly acceptable to get married after divorcing, but the divorce must be finalized. If a person attempts to marry while already being a part of a valid marriage, then the attempted marriage will be void. There is an exception in situations where a spouse leaves the other spouse for the prior five years before the second marriage or where the absent spouse is believed to be dead.
  • Green Card Marriages. If a marriage is a fake marriage, also known as a sham marriage, for the purpose of a non-resident obtaining United States residency, then the marriage will be void.

 Voidable Marriages

In the following situations, the state will find that a marriage is voidable:

  • Marriage Involving a Minor. If a party to a marriage is a minor, the marriage will be voidable. California Family Code Section 2210 makes such a marriage voidable. Age of consent in California is eighteen. If a party to the marriage is under eighteen, the parents did not consent, and there was no court order directing the marriage, then the marriage will be a voidable marriage. However, there is a time frame for the minor to declare the marriage void. If the minor continues to live with the spouse after attaining the age of eighteen, then that person can no longer declare the marriage void.
  • If a party to a marriage does not have the legal capacity to consent to a marriage, the marriage may be voidable. Capacity means the understanding of the risks and benefits of marriage by the parties entering into the marriage. If the party that is incapacitated regains capacity and freely lives with the other spouse, then the marriage cannot be declared void.
  • Marriage Under Fraud, Duress, or Undue Influence. If one party coerces the other party to marry or tricks the other party into the marriage, the marriage is voidable. However, once the tricked or coerced party freely decides to live with the other party, the marriage can no longer be declared void.

Contact Our Los Angeles Divorce Attorneys For Help

If you believe you are a party to a void or voidable marriage and are looking to separate from your spouse, it is important to understand the ramifications of voiding a marriage. In some situations, there is also criminal liability that will need to be addressed. If you are seeking a divorce and one of the above situations applies to you, contact our Los Angeles divorce attorneys at Furman & Zavatsky LLP to determine the best route for your divorce.

We will consider whether your divorce is void or voidable, and if so, whether it is in your best interest to have it declared as such. Call our law firm at 818-528-3471 to learn more.

Furman & Zavatsky LLP
Los Angeles Divorce and Family Law Attorneys
15821 Ventura Blvd #690 Encino, CA 91436

Related Resources:
Legal Reasons for an Annulment
Los Angeles County Office Locations for Marriage Licenses and Ceremonies

About the Author

Call a Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer

Family law disputes have the potential to have a significant impact on your quality of life and overall happiness. As a result, it is critical for you to protect your rights to the fullest extent possible when involved in a dispute related to family law. The lawyers of Furman & Zavatsky have the skill and experience to resolve your case as favorably as possible and provide compassionate and understanding legal counsel and representation. We also offer flat fee legal services for divorce and family law issues.

To schedule a free consultation with one of our Los Angeles divorce attorneys, call our office today at 818-528-3471. Read our blog on how to prepare for your first meeting with a divorce lawyer.

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