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Grounds for Annulment in California

Some couples who wish to end their marriage want to take the route of annulment, rather than divorce. Even though we live in a relatively progressive society, divorce still carries a stigma for many people. As an alternative to divorce, spouses may choose to file for an annulment which, put simply, treats the marriage as if it never happened in the first place. To be clear, this page describes civil annulments, not religious annulments. Civil annulments are granted through the courts, while religious annulments are granted through a church or clergy member. If you wish to end your marriage but do not want to file for a divorce, our legal team at the Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth can assess whether your marriage can be annulled in the state of California.

Grounds That to Nullify a Marriage in California

Annulment essentially has the same effect as divorce. When a couple is granted a divorce, the marriage is dissolved and each party has the option to remarry. Annulment works the same way, but it takes things a step further and voids a marriage. Voiding a marriage treats the union as though it never legally existed. Annulments are much more difficult to receive because they are more narrowly defined than divorce. Below is a list of grounds by which an annulment is eligible to be granted:

  • Bigamy
  • Incest
  • Fraud
  • Insanity
  • Impotence
  • Either party was under the legal age of consent
  • Marriage not consummated
  • Misunderstanding
  • Duress
  • Incapacity due to alcohol or drug use
  • Mentally disabled

Some of these grounds render a marriage void, and since they were unlawful from the time the marriage took place, there are no formalities needed in order for them to be terminated. If any of the following grounds were present at the time of the marriage, it is classified as void:

  • Bigamy
  • Incest

The following types of marriages are considered voidable, and an individual must file for an annulment in order for the marriage to be terminated:

  • Either party was under the age of legal consent
  • Insanity
  • Impotence
  • Marriage not consummated
  • Misunderstanding
  • Duress
  • Incapacity due to alcohol or drug use
  • Mentally disabled

Regulations for Filing For An Annulment

A couple could fall under one of the grounds listed above, however a court can still refuse to grant an annulment if certain conditions are not met. For each of the grounds listed above, a party must meet a threshold to be eligible for an annulment. If either party was under eighteen at the time of marriage, that party has the option to file, but the underage party must file for an annulment within four years after reaching the age of eighteen. A parent or guardian of the minor may file before he or she turns eighteen.
If a party files for an annulment based on fraud or duress, he or she must file within four years of getting married. Only the party who was deceived may file for an annulment based on fraud. The same goes for a party who filed based on duress. A person who seeks an annulment on the basis that his or her spouse was of unsound, may do so any time before the death of either party. A relative or guardian of the party of unsound mind also has the authority to file for an annulment on the unsound mind individual’s behalf.
A party may file for an annulment on the basis of his or her spouse’s physical incapacity if the filing is completed within four years of marriage.

Effect of Annulment

Once an annulment is granted, children born of the marriage are deemed to have never existed. Therefore, for purposes of child support and visitation, a party must request that a judge establish paternity for any children in common with the other party. In regard to property and debt, community property laws may not be relied upon in the process dividing property and debt accumulated during the marriage. Spousal support benefits such as alimony are also not available to either party once an annulment has been granted. There are some cases in which a judge may grant property rights or spousal support benefits to a party. This party is considered a “putative” party and the judge must be shown that the party entered into the marriage with the good faith belief that the marriage was legal under California law.

Ventura California Divorce Lawyers

If you are about to get married and are looking for a firm that can provide a comprehensive overview of the issues and nuances surrounding annulments and divorce, the divorce attorneys at the Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth can help. For a consultation on your annulment or divorce, contact the Ventura Family lawyers at Bamieh & De Smeth today. Call (805) 585-5056 today for a free consultation.

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