An annulment and a divorce both end a marriage. An annulment does so by finding that the marriage was never valid in the first place. In the eyes of the law, an annulled marriage never really existed.
If you file for an annulment in California, you must cite one or more of the following grounds:
- The spouses are close blood relatives.
- One spouse was already and still married when entering into the marriage to be annulled.
- The spouse filing for annulment was not yet eighteen years old at the time of the marriage.
- Either spouse was of “unsound mind” or unable to understand the nature of the marriage including the obligations that go with it.
- Either spouse got married as a result of fraud. The fraud must have been about something vital to the relationship that directly affected why the spouse who was deceived agreed to the marriage. Examples are concealing the inability to have children or marrying only for immigration purposes.
- One spouse forced the other to get married.
- One of the spouses has an “incurable physical incapacity,” which typically refers to male impotence preventing the couple from consummating the marriage.
The spouse filing for the annulment has the burden of proof to show the judge that the ground(s) cited are true. Otherwise, the judge won’t annul the marriage. There are deadlines in California for filing which vary depending on the grounds.
An annulled marriage is viewed legally as having never been valid. Therefore the court doesn’t have authority to award spousal support or divide assets or debts. California couples going through an annulment must separate their own assets and debts.
An annulment also undoes the legal paternity of the children of the marriage. Legally, the children born of the “marriage” were born to single parents. A judge will have to re-establish paternity of the children before child support, custody and visitation can be addressed by the court.
The financial and familial stakes are high. There are legal requirements which need to be clearly understood. If you are considering an annulment, it’s wise to consult with an an experienced family law attorney. You may decide that another option would be better – such as divorce.