An annulment is a legal option that allows you to terminate your marriage and move on as if you had never been married. Domestic partnerships are eligible for annulment in California if they meet the legal requirements. The law is very specific about the grounds for annulment and familiarizing yourself with what consequences an annulment can have for you, your property, and any child born during your marriage can help you decide whether you want to pursue this route. However, you should always seek professional legal advice before beginning the process.
If you are interested in pursuing a religious annulment, this is a separate process from obtaining a civil one. To check whether you are eligible for a religious annulment, you must contact a member of your faith who has the authority to determine whether you may petition for one.
What Are the Acceptable Grounds for an Annulment under California Law?
California law considers your marriage void from the beginning for two reasons:
- Bigamy where one spouse was still legally married to another living person
- Incest where spouses are close blood relatives
You can also petition for an annulment under other circumstances. However, it is important to note that the burden of evidence is on you if you are the one filing for an annulment.
The California Family Code authorizes courts to rule a marriage voidable due to:
- Age: A spouse entered the marriage as a minor without proper authorization from their parent or guardian.
- Unsound mind: One spouse did not have the mental capacity to understand they were getting married whether due to illness or intoxication.
- Fraud: A spouse lied about their reason to enter the marriage, such as wanting to get married to obtain a green card.
- Coercion: One spouse used violence, blackmail, or extortion to force their partner to enter the marriage.
- Incurable Physical Incapacity: A spouse has a physical condition that prevents the couple from engaging in marital relationships. The only exception is if the other spouse knew about their significant other’s condition before agreeing to get married.
Each legal ground has its specific statutes of limitations and requirements. You may use one or more acceptable grounds to file for annulment.
How Does an Annulment Affect Children Born During the Marriage?
If you have had one or more children during your marriage, an annulment may create paternity issues since an annulment voids your marriage and the law considers it never existed. Contrary to a divorce that maintains the presumption of paternity and has specific laws for child custody and child support, an annulment can be more complicated when it comes to establishing the father’s rights and obligations.
Under the Uniform Parentage Act, a court presumes paternity of any children born during a marriage or within 300 days after a divorce or an annulment. Although California usually preserves paternity after an annulment, this is not a certainty, and determining what support your child receives after the annulment is a key element when choosing to file for an annulment and throughout the negotiations and possibly a trial to get your marriage voided.
Consult a Trusted Attorney before Filing for an Annulment
Although you may have reasonable grounds to file for an annulment in California, you should always hire a family law attorney who specializes in annulment cases. They can review your situation and educate you on how an annulment may impact any children born during your marriage and your finances and any joint property you have with your spouse. An attorney can suggest you opt for a divorce instead to help protect your family and assets.
If you move forward with filing for annulment, an attorney can ensure you meet the statutes of limitations and present adequate proof to the court. No matter what legal process you choose to end your marriage, your lawyer can guide you through the process and answer any questions you may have.
Are you considering an annulment in San Fernando Valley? Contact Cutter & Lax, Attorneys at Law, today at (818) 839-2533 to schedule a consultation with one of our family law attorneys.