When Can You Get An Annulment Of A Marriage In California?
In most cases when people want to end their marriage, one or both spouses will file for a divorce. But there are some situations where one or either party may have the right to seek an annulment instead.
How does an annulment differ from a divorce? From a legal standpoint, a divorce dissolves an existing marriage, while an annulment declares the marriage was never valid in the first place. This means that while any marriage can end in a divorce, only certain situations permit a California court to actually annul–or invalidate–a marriage.
The Grounds for Annulment
Here are some of the common grounds for annulling a marriage in California:
- Either party has committed bigamy. That is to say, if either party to the marriage was still legally married to another person at the time, the subsequent marriage is invalid. In some cases, a person may remarry thinking their prior spouse was deceased. If the first spouse later turns up alive, a court can annul the subsequent marriage of the other spouse.
- The party seeking the annulment was under the age of 18 when the marriage occurred. Technically, California does not have any minimum age for a person to marry. But a minor–i.e., anyone under 18–must obtain parental consent and a court order prior to entering into a valid marriage. So if a minor marries without such permissions they can later seek to have the marriage annulled. This means the marriage is not technically invalid, but can be voided by the party seeking the annulment.
- The party seeking the annulment can prove the other party committed force or fraud to obtain the marriage. Fraud can be difficult to prove in this context. Essentially, one party needs to show the other party lied or withheld information that effectively “tricked” them into consenting to the marriage. One example could be that one spouse said they wanted kids, knowing that they are physically incapable of reproducing. This particular issue goes to the heart of many marriages—the ability to create a family.
- One party is physically unable to consummate the marriage (i.e., have sex with the other spouse). It is worth noting that the ability to consummate the marriage is not the same thing as the capacity to conceive a child. In other words, you can seek an annulment on grounds of impotence, but not infertility. This is different than the fraud example discussed above because the spouse KNEW they were infertile and lied withheld or lied about this information.
- One of the parties was not of “sound mind” at the time of the marriage. This means they lacked the mental capacity to understand the fact they were entering into a marriage. This can be due to a persistent condition, such as mental illness, or even a temporary state of incapacity–e.g., you were drunk.
Speak with a Campbell, California, Family Law Attorney Today
Even in cases where annulment is a potential option, it may still be in your best interests to seek a divorce instead (and vice versa). One key difference between divorce and annulment is that with the latter, you normally do not have the right to seek alimony or a division of marital property. That is why before making any decisions it is best to consult with a qualified Campbell divorce attorney. Contact Hepner & Pagan, LLP, today to schedule a consultation.