Annulment has often been a widely-misunderstood legal concept. Civil annulments (that is, annulments granted by the state) are similar to divorces in that they affect a marital status. The most significant difference is that while divorce will end an existing, valid marriage, an annulment announces a valid marriage never actually existed between the parties involved.
California judges can issue an annulment only on certain grounds:
- The couple is related by blood
- One spouse was married already at the time of the second marriage
- One party was not yet 18 upon being married
- One spouse defrauded the other into the marriage
- One spouse has an "incurable" physical capacity
- One or both spouses is of "unsound mind"
- One spouse forced the other to get married
It is up to the person asking for the annulment to prove to the judge that one of the above reasons exists in order for the judge to grant the annulment.
Court Orders for Annulment
If you plan to petition for an annulment, you should know that California has a statute of limitations on when annulments can be filed.
The deadline for the statute of limitations depends on the grounds for the annulment:
- If you were too young when married you have four years after turning 18
- If for bigamy, you or your spouse can file at any time while the first spouse is still living
- If for "unsound mind," you can file any time before you or your spouse dies
- If filing for fraud, you have four years to file upon discovery of the fraud
- If force was used to consent to marriage you have four years from the beginning of the marriage
- If physical incapacity, you have four years to file from the beginning of the marriage
Children born into an annulled marriage will need to be addressed. Parents will have to ask the judge to establish paternity and then child support, visitation, and permanent custody can be decided. This is not difficult to obtain since California presumes the former husband is the biological father of the children.
Since California does not recognize the marriage, property must be divided by the couple themselves. Neither party can receive spousal support or survivorship benefits.
An annulment is not to be taken lightly as it has serious ramifications on your finances and family. If you are considering an annulment or have been served with annulment papers, call an Orange County divorce lawyer from The Law Offices of W. Douglas McKeague to protect yourself!