The end of a marriage is always stressful and sad. It is a period when emotions run high and anger and bitterness take the place of sound reasoning and logic. If you reach a point when you want to end your marriage, it’s important to carefully consider all your options. When looking for information on annulments, sometimes you know that it is the best option for you, other times, you are ready for a divorce but then you come to learn that an annulment is a better fit for your case. Before you decide on the way forward, it is important to have as much information as possible. If you’re contemplating an annulment in California, you need to know what it is, the requirements for application, and the effects it can have on your life. If you have any questions concerning this procedure contact San Diego Family Law Attorney today at 619-610-7425 for a free initial consultation. We are here to help.
Annulment Vs Divorce
While divorce is the often the common option, you may have a better option if you choose an annulment of your marriage. An annulment also referred to as nullity of marriage occurs when a marriage or domestic partnership is legally declared invalid. In other words, it is null and void and technically, never existed. Though annulments and divorces are similar in the fact that they lead to the end of a marriage or domestic partnership, they have a significant difference. Divorce is the termination of a marriage or domestic partnership that is already legal while an annulment is a legal declaration that nullifies a marriage that was illegal from the beginning. This means that the union deviated from the requirements of state law during its establishment. Under California Family Code Section 2212, once a marriage is declared null and void, the person returns to the status of being unmarried.
In California, marriage annulments fall into two categories: religious annulments and civil annulments. A civil annulment is issued by the courts and may not be required to obtain a religious annulment. Therefore, it’s imperative that you consult with your clergymen concerning the qualifications for a religious annulment if you were married in a religious ceremony. Also, some religions do not tolerate divorce but prefer annulment as the best way to end a marriage.
Grounds for an Annulment in California
If you are seeking an annulment in California, it's important to know that a judge can only grant your request if you meet one of the specified conditions. A marriage can be rendered invalid on the following grounds:
- Incest: Marriages and registered domestic partnership involving close blood relatives are void and therefore not valid, legal marriages.
- Bigamy: If someone marries a second time while he or she is married or in a domestic partnership with another individual, the second marriage is void.
- Underage: A marriage is considered voidable if one of the parties was under the age of 18 when the marriage took place.
- Unsound mind: If at the time of the marriage one of the parties was considered to be of unsound mind, meaning that he or she was unable to understand what it meant to enter a marriage, or the contract and obligations that come along with it, the union may be considered invalid. Being of unsound mind may involve a mental condition and even intoxication that prevents one from understanding the events or making a reasonable decision.
- Fraud: If either party defrauded the other to obtain the other party’s consent, the marriage can be annulled. In this case, fraud involves a cover-up of facts or a false representation, which goes to the heart of the marriage and alters the very essence of the union. This means that the fraud directly affects the party who was deceived. Some examples include hiding the inability to have children, a woman being married without telling her husband that she’s pregnant with another man’s child, marrying only to get a green card, or never disclosing one’s criminal history.
- Force: If one party obtained the other party’s consent of marriage by using force, the union can be annulled.
- Incurable physical incapacity: This typically refers to the inability to engage in normal sexual relations or what you'd call impotence. This inability must be ongoing and appear to be incurable.
If you meet any of the above qualifications, contact your family lawyer to discuss your options for an annulment. This is imperative since you will need the attorney to help you prove that your situation and facts are true. The laws regarding an annulment can be exceedingly complex for an ordinary person to hover around and proving what you are saying is true can be one of the most difficult things you’ll do when seeking nullity of marriage. It’s always best to work with an attorney specializing in this area.
Why Would You Choose File an Annulment Over a Divorce?
There are several reasons why couples choose annulments over divorces. If your situation is best described by any of the above reasons, the best option you have in ending your marriage or domestic partnership is an annulment. When your marriage is considered null and void, you will be freed from the union without some of the hassles of a divorce. For instance, in an annulment, there is no division of property and this means that parties will not split things like shared businesses, bank accounts, or retirement accounts. Also, it does not allow for spousal support or child custody. This is because there was no valid marriage or it just never existed and there was no community property acquired.
Many people think that annulments are only for those who are very young for marriage, those whose marriages have lasted for a very short time, or those separating for religious reasons. This is far from the truth since a marriage can be annulled for different reasons and the length of the marriage does not play a role in deciding whether one qualifies for an annulment. However, in longer marriages, it may be more or less difficult to prove your eligibility. For many, annulment is a better option than divorce or a legal separation.
Putative Spouse Exception
According to California Family Code Section 2251, a party to an invalid marriage or domestic partnership may have a domestic partner or putative spouse status if they believed that the marriage was valid and he or she had no reason to believe there were deficiencies facing the union. In this case, the putative spouse may have a right to support, division of community property, and other benefits associated with the union. For one to be given a putative spouse status you must prove that you had a “good faith” believed that the union was legal under California law.
Child Custody and Visitation Orders
Once an annulment is finalized, it means that the marriage never existed and if there are children involved, issues related to child custody and visitation will be handled as though the child’s parents are unmarried. Paternity must be established before the parents can create a custody and visitation agreement. During the annulment process or after the court has nullified the union, the parties can open a custody and visitation case to take care of the child’s wellbeing. Paternity must also be established in this case.
Is There a Deadline for When I Can File an Annulment?
While there’s no deadline for filing divorces and legal separations, there is a deadline, called a statute of limitations, when filing for an annulment. The statute of limitations provides a guideline on the time limit for when to bring a lawsuit. The statute of limitations depends on the legal reason you want to use in obtaining an annulment. Below are the deadlines for the various legal reasons:
Underage: If you decide to file an annulment because at the time of marriage or registration of the domestic partnership you were younger than 18 years old, you have four years after you turn 18 to file for the annulment. Additionally, a parent or guardian of the underage person must file before the minor’s 18th birthday.
Unsound mind: If your partner or spouse is of unsound mind, you may file for an annulment any time for as long as both parties are alive. The same applies to any relative who files on behalf of the person who is of unsound mind.
Fraud: If you consented to a marriage because you were deceived, you must file for an annulment within four years of learning that you were defrauded.
Prior existing marriage/ missing person: If your reason for seeking an annulment is because one person abandoned a previous registered domestic partnership or marriage without going through the legal procedure of divorce or separation, either party of the second or current union may file for an annulment so long as both parties are alive. The same stipulation applies to the former spouse or partner.
Physical incapacity: If your spouse or partner is unable to engage in normal copulation, you must file for an annulment within four years after you got married or registered the domestic partnership.
Force: If you were forced into the marriage or registered domestic partnership, you must file for an annulment within four years after you got married or registered the domestic partnership.
Annulment Process in California
Before you apply for an annulment, it's advisable to first determine if you meet the requirements to file. The process is not as simple as it may appear to be and it can be a confusing mess of rules, forms, and legalese. A simple mistake can get result in your request being rejected. This is why it is advisable to retain the services of a San Diego annulment attorney. Steps to the annulment process include:
- Filing the necessary forms;
- Leave the originals with the court clerk and get two copies; one for you and one for the other party
- Get the annulments forms served to your spouse either by an adult or a professional process server
- Your spouse is supposed to file a Proof of Service Summons to the court and your role is to ensure that that is done
- Get evidence and documents that you’ll use to prove that you’re eligible for an annulment. This should be done before you attend a hearing.
- Attend a hearing
- the judgment on your case is made
Can the Court Deny My Request?
Before an annulment can be granted, the interested party must prove that the domestic partnership or marriage is invalid. If you fail to prove your eligibility, the court may not grant your annulment request. In this case, you will be left with the option of filing an amended petition with the court that will allow you to instead apply for a divorce or a legal separation. Important to remember, there are residency requirements if you chose to apply for a legal separation before you can file for a divorce. At this juncture, the laws and regulations regarding annulments will no longer be applicable in your case.
There are only limited cases which annulments are granted and it's important to speak with a skilled and experienced San Diego annulment attorney who can assess your facts and advise you on the best approach to take. If an annulment is not the best option, the attorney must be able to advise you accordingly.
Need a Lawyer for an Annulment in Pasadena?
A legal annulment ends a marriage and allows partners to regain the status they had prior to their marriage. However, the transition can be difficult and full of complex legal requirements and of course emotional issues. As such, the process involves risks and you only have one chance to fix the problem you’re facing, and you want to ensure that you are doing everything right.
San Diego Family Law Attorney can assist you in the annulment process by advising you on what to file, and where and how to file it. With extensive experience in handling annulments, you can be sure that we’ll be dedicated to helping you resolve your issues in an equitable and fair manner. If you think you have a valid reason for an annulment and you’re contemplating pursuing it, connect with one of our experienced attorneys today to get help in making these important decisions. You can get started by filling our online contact form for a case review and we will get in touch with you. You can also call us at 619-610-7425 for a free consultation and we’ll be happy to answer your questions. We will get through this together.