California guidelines for annulments of marriage

This article explores the primary legal differences between annulment and divorce, including information about extrajudicial religious annulment.

Annulment Laws

To help understand the difference between annulment and divorce, let's look at two hypothetical situations. Depending on the marital property laws of their state, their combined assets and liabilities will be divided either equally or equitably; one spouse may pay alimony to the other; and child custody, support, and visitation will be determined. The union was valid when they obtained their marriage license, but now they wish to terminate the marriage.

Meanwhile, Couple B settled down together and had what you would call a happy marriage.

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However, the wife discovered after a couple of years -- from a demand letter seeking support payments -- that her husband actually left his first family one year before she met him. She had no idea he was previously married, or that he had children. The court agreed, declared the marriage null and void, and the two parties went their separate ways as if they were never married in the first place.

If Couple B had children together, then the courts would still go through the child custody, visitation, and support process.

Annulments treat a void versus a voidable marriage differently

Annulments are a form of relief for people who were placed in situations in which they never should have been married. Because civil annulments treat the marriage as though it never existed, a person must have a pretty good reason to obtain one.

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Typically, one of the following requirements or legal grounds must be met to obtain an annulment vs. These things are usually discovered early on in the marriage, so there typically is no need to divide property or decide on issues regarding children. However, most state laws do govern how to decide such issues should an annulment of a long-term marriage occur.

Check with your state's laws regarding property division and child custody, visitation, and support. If you do have children from an annulled marriage, these children are not considered illegitimate. The grounds for obtaining a religious annulment are different than those for a court-granted annulment.

Getting A Marriage Annulled in California

However, both types of annulments have essentially the same effect--the marriage is treated as though it never existed. In the Catholic Church, a diocesan tribunal, rather than a court of law, decides whether the marriage bond was less than a covenant for life, because it was lacking in some way from the very beginning. Either or both parties may obtain an annulment if they can show adequate grounds, such as a lack of maturity, honesty, or emotional stability. If the tribunal grants the annulment, then both parties may remarry in the Catholic Church.

Can This Marriage be Annulled? |

Unlike a voidable marriage, a void marriage is automatically invalid, because it wasn't legal in the first place. Any of the following situations make it illegal to marry:. These types of marriages are considered void or illegal from the start. Your state may offer annulment, divorce, or both to end a void marriage.

California Annulment - Understanding the Legal Basis

You should weigh the advantages and disadvantages of annulment before you decide how to end your marriage. The main benefit of annulment is that the law treats the marriage as if it never existed--it's over, and there are no further issues to deal with. Courts don't usually divide property during an annulment proceeding, but in some states like New Jersey , courts can award alimony spousal support.

In a divorce, you'll have more issues to deal with, like property division , child custody and support , and possibly attorney's fees. But if children are involved in an annulment, judges will have to consider custody and support arrangements. An annulment won't affect the legitimacy of any children born during the marriage. In New York , for example, children born while their parents are married are legitimate, even if a judge later annuls the marriage.

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And an annulment won't affect paternity, which means the husband will still be the presumed father of any children his wife gave birth to during the marriage. There are challenges to seeking an annulment over a divorce. First, proving the grounds for an annulment can be more complicated and expensive.

Overview of Annulment

Today, all states offer no-fault divorce, where spouses can simply cite irreconcilable differences as the reason for the split. With an annulment, you'll have to prove that at least one of the grounds listed above existed at the time of the wedding. This requires investigation, discovery--including depositions --and a court trial, where you'll have to bring evidence, examine witnesses, and testify. Second, state laws place time limits on annulment, and your window to use it may have already closed.

Annulment isn't for everyone, and only a small percentage of marriages qualify for one, but if you think annulment may be right for you, you should talk to a local attorney to discuss your rights and options. Skip to Main Content.