There are basically three ways to end a marriage in California: divorce, legal separation, and annulment. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the marriage and the married couple's preference, one can go for any of those options. Legal separation and divorce are quite similar only that in a legal separation, the couple remains legally married even after separating their family and properties. Annulment is suitable for a marriage that was not supposed to have happened in the first place. If this is how you want to end your marriage, The Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer can help you to understand what annulments entail as well as take you through the process.
Legal Definition of Annulment
Legally, an annulment is defined as a legal procedure that cancels the existence of a marriage between a man and a woman. Annulment is done to completely erase a marriage record, and make it look as if the marriage never happened in the first place. After the procedure, the marriage will appear as if it never technically existed and was not valid.
A marriage annulment can be initiated by either the wife or the husband. The person initiating it must provide proof to show that they have sufficient grounds to annul the marriage. If the judge approves it, the marriage will, in the end, be considered by the court as null and void. There are several grounds that are acceptable for a marriage annulment in Los Angeles. Working closely with an attorney who understands California annulment law is important for proper advice and support throughout the process.
Grounds of Marriage Annulment in California
Being a no-fault state, California can grant a divorce and legal separation automatically to a married couple that wants to separate, but this will not work for those that want to annul their marriage. A lot of people believe that one can inevitably qualify for marriage nullification if they have been recently married, which is not the case. With marriage annulment, there must be valid reasons for annulment for the judge to grant it. Divorce and legal separation may not have a special reason to support it but nullifications do.
The explanation for this can be found in the definition of marriage annulment. If a marriage has to be declared as to never have been legal in the first place, only a few special reasons and circumstances will make a declaration like that legal and truly valid. Here are the legal grounds for a marriage annulment in California:
If the marriage is incestuous
A marriage between people who are blood relatives will never be considered valid. Fathers, mothers, their children, and grandchildren are not allowed by law to marry one another. The same goes to brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nephews, cousins and nieces who are closely related by blood, up to the fourth generation. In California, an exception is made on cousins as marriages between first cousins are considered legal in the state, but not in other parts of the country.
If the marriage is bigamous
This happens if the person in the marriage relationship is already in another marriage relationship with another person. California law does not allow a person who is already married legally to marry another person in the period of his/her union. The first matrimony will always be considered legal until it is terminated, but the marriages that will follow will always be illegal. However, if one spouse was believed to have been dead or his/her existence has never been known for more than five years, the bigamous marriage will be termed as a mistake and will not be automatically annulled. The marriage can only be annulled if the other partner seeks to nullify it.
If one or both of the partners were juveniles
If the couple married when one or both of them were underage, they could be granted an annulment if they do not wish to continue being married. The legal age to get married in California is 18. If, however, one or both partners, even though underage, obtained their parent's consent to get married and there was a court’s directive allowing the two to get married while both or one of them was underage, the marriage will still be valid and cannot be canceled on such grounds. The right to nullify a marriage that happened between two underage partners ends four years after the two turns 18. If both minors cohabited and lived as spouses willingly when they were below 18 years of age, they can annul their marriage before they turn 22.
If the marriage was fraudulent or done forcefully
A marriage done through fraud or by force is never considered as valid in California. For any type of matrimony to be legal, both partners must give their agreement to the union, without being forced or duped into getting married. There are people who get married for other reasons other than the allowed reasons for marriage. People who, for instance, get married to acquire a green card do so fraudulently. Those who get married without telling their partners of their lack of ability to have children or sex defraud their partners. People who are lied to by their partners about being wealthy and good only for their partners to discover that it was all a lie can file for annulment on grounds of fraud.
Similarly, there are people who are forced into marriage. Force, in this case, need not be physical; there are instances when a person is threatened to get married to another person. If this happened, a partner that was defrauded or forced to get into marriage is allowed by law to file a for marriage annulment.
If one partner is of unsound mind
A marriage can be annulled if one partner was of unsound mind when the marriage took place. Unsound mind, in this case, means that the partner was incapable of understanding the nature of the marriage and their obligations towards the marriage and their spouse. If it is established that one spouse was mentally handicapped or suffered an illness that made it impossible for them to give true consent to the marriage, the matrimony can be termed invalid and thereafter dissolved. In such a case, the partner’s relations may petition the court to annul the marriage if the person is still of an unsound mind. There is a possibility of extreme intoxication at the time of marriage to count as “of not being of a sound mind” to grant a valid reason to get an annulment.
Physical incapacity at the time of marriage means that a person is incapable of consummating the marriage. The incapacity is allowed in marriage if there is a chance that the physically incapacitated person will get cured with time to consummate the marriage. If this never happens, it could provide a good ground for the annulment of that marriage. Note that physical incapacitation can also occur after a legal marriage. If one partner suddenly becomes incapable of having sexual relations with his/her spouse or having children, the other spouse could petition for the marriage annulment.
If, however, a person lives with their spouse after four years without being aware of the physical incapacitation, the right to call for an annulment will cease to exist. If there is a valid reason to get an annulment, there must be proof that the incapacitation is incurable for the petition to be accepted by the court.
Even with clear valid reasons, annulments are still not as common as legal separations and divorce in California. This could be because the grounds for marriage annulments are quite strict and they are strictly limited to the above reasons. Again, most of these reasons are a matter of statutes of limitations. There must also, be sufficient proof for the judge to accept the reasons as valid enough for the marriage to be annulled.
Even in cases where the reasons to petition for annulment are valid, the judge may refuse to accept the petition on certain grounds. For this reason, you need the help of an experienced attorney to ensure that your petition goes through
Statutes of Limitations for Annulment in California
Each ground for a marriage annulment in the state has its own statute of limitation associated with it. In general, there is a specified amount of time during which one partner can file for an annulment, within which the person requesting for annulment must file the paperwork for the annulment process to begin.
In a case where the marriage happened when one or both parties were minors, one or both parties have four years from the time they turn 18 years of age to file for a marriage annulment. Note that the marriage can be annulled before the minor turns 18 if his/her parents or guardian petition the court for the same on behalf of the child.
In the case of bigamy, either of the partners can request for marriage annulment as long as the other party in the other marriage is alive. The petition can also be done by the other existing spouse in the first marriage as soon as they discover that their partner got married to another person.
For a marriage between a normal person and one with an unsound mind, a request for marriage annulment can be done by the sound partner or the relatives of the partner with an unsound mind any time before either of the partners dies.
In a case of a fraudulent marriage, the person who was deceived has until four years after the marriage to file for its annulment. The same goes for a marriage that took place on the grounds of force. In this case, the person who was forced to give consent to the marriage will be expected to file for its annulment within four years after the marriage took place.
In a marriage where one partner is physically incapacitated, the other partner is free to file for annulment four years after getting married. After that, the reason to get the annulment will not be considered valid.
How to Get an Annulment in California
Filing for a marriage annulment in California is done the same way as filing for divorce. There are several steps one must take, as well as several forms to fill and submit for the process to be complete. There are also legal requirements to abide by, which is why the help of an experienced divorce attorney is a prerequisite. A simple mistake in the middle of the process can either delay or prevent the annulment to be successful.
Here is a step-by-step process for filing for annulment in California:
- File for a petition of your marriage annulment and then sign it. This will kick start the process. The form to file in this case will be FL-100; just the same one used when one is filing for divorce. Instead of ticking on the part marked ‘dissolve’, chose the one marked ‘nullify’
- After that, you will be required to provide details about the union you want to nullify, such as your names and the names of your spouse, how long you have been married and the grounds for wanting to nullify your marriage. The court will also want to know if there are any children in that marriage and anything else you think will be relevant and could help in the case
- With that, it will be time to send your spouse the notice for the marriage nullification. Your lawyer will help in this so as to ensure that your spouse has received the papers. If he/she proves that they did not receive the papers, the case will not proceed as planned. The law allows for such petitions to be sent through the mail and if the recipient ignores the papers and fails to respond, the case will still proceed
- If you are filing the petition in San Diego, there will be more papers to file in the course of time. An experienced attorney will know all about the required paperwork and so, chances of missing out in any of them will be minimal. If there are children in the marriage, for instance, there will be additional papers to file pertaining to child support, custody, and child visitation. There will be a totally different process too, on the determination of child support and anything else related to child custody. All the papers that pertain to marriage annulment will be filed with the clerk at the county's Superior Court. All the required fees will be paid there as well
- The last bit of the process will be to attend the annulment hearing. This will be done with your attorney, your partner, and his/her attorney. This will be your chance to present your case and clarify any details that may not have been added in the plea. The judge will listen to both parties before making the final verdict.
For the judge to rule in favor of the petition, the petitioner should provide proof and any convincing evidence why their marriage should be nullified. Sometimes witnesses may be required to help the judge prove that indeed the marriage is invalid. In some cases, the judge will give his/her verdict immediately but in other cases, the couple will be told to wait and the judge's decision is mailed to each of their attorneys afterward.
If the judge denies the petition, the petitioner can appeal or retry if they get hold of more proof or if they feel that they were not well treated. The court also allows the petitioner to make corrections on the forms if the rejection was technical. If the petitioner accepts the court’s decision, the marriage will still stand and the only option left could be legal separation or divorce.
Effects of Marriage Annulment
If the petition is accepted, the marriage will now be legally considered as if it never existed in the first place. The couple will go their separate ways.
All marital property will be divided fairly and equally but any separate property will be retained by its original owner. The couple is expected to divide the family assets by themselves, without the intervention of the court. In case of an unfair division of assets, the aggrieved couple can take separate action against his/her former spouse.
Issues pertaining to child custody, child support, and visitation will be resolved, just the same way they would be resolved in case of an unwed couple. On the issue of paternity, the judge may want to establish parenthood before making a decision on who will keep the child/children, who will pay child support and the visiting parent. There will be no alimony since the marriage record will be in existence.
Find a Los Angeles Divorce Attorney Near Me
Even though the grounds for marriage annulment are straightforward, they are quite strict and your petition can easily be denied, forcing you to seek other ways of ending your marriage. The Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer could be your best option in ensuring that your annulment petition is a success. Through our experience and legal expertise, you can be sure of the best legal advice and support that will guarantee a smooth process. Call us at 310-695-5212 if you are seeking an annulment in Los Angeles, California.