Annulment: The Other Option to Ending a Marriage

Annulment: The Other Option to Ending a Marriage

What to Do If You Discover Important Information After Finalizing Your Divorce

For those people looking into ending their marriage, divorce is an obvious option that will likely be a person’s first choice. Most people are at least partially familiar with the divorce process and likely know someone who has gone through a divorce. However, there is another way to legally end a marriage in California. Although both a divorce and an annulment sever marital ties, the legal effects of each are very different. There are both pros and cons for each option, so both should be thoroughly considered if they are an option.

What Is a Marriage Annulment in California?

The process to get an annulment in California is very similar to the process to get a divorce. It involves filing a petition for annulment in the appropriate county’s court. This petition must show reasons why the validity of the marriage is in question and the proposed terms for the annulment. The filing spouse has 30 days from the filing date to inform the other party of the petition and have them formally served. The other spouse then has 30 days from receipt of notification to answer the petition or file a response. If the annulment is successful, it will be as though the marriage never happened.

Potential Reasons for an Annulment

The requirements for an annulment are very selective and will not apply to every marriage. This is why it is important to speak with an experienced attorney to determine the best route to take for your specific case. The possible reasons for annulment in California include:

  • Underage Marriage: If one party was 17 or younger when the marriage occurred, it can be annulled if it was filed within four years of the underage party turning 18.
  • Not Legally Single: If at least one party committed bigamy by entering a second marriage without dissolving the first marriage, an annulment request could be filed before the first spouse’s death.
  • Forced Marriage: If a party was forced into the marriage against their own wishes, they can file for an annulment within the first four years of the marriage.
  • Fraudulent Marriage: If one party was deceived into the marriage through fraudulent means by the other party, the marriage can be annulled if filed within four years of the date that you discover the fraud. An example of this type of situation is a non-US citizen marrying another only to stay in the United States while making the other person believe the marriage is for traditional reasons.
  • Unsound Mind: If either of the parties could not consent to the marriage due to being of “unsound mind” at the time of the marriage, an annulment can be filed at any time before the death of the other party. An example of a person of an unsound mind would be an intoxicated person.
  • Physical Incapacity: If one or both parties have an incurable physical disease, illness, or incapacitation that cannot be resolved soon, they can file for an annulment.

Difference Between Divorce and Annulment

Both a divorce and an annulment will end a marriage, but the end results are vastly different. A divorce is defined as the legal dissolution of a marriage. When the divorce is final, the two parties are legally single and can remarry. A judge declares the marriage dissolved, but it will remain on the record as having existed.

However, an annulment, or judgment of nullity, being granted means the court has found the marriage to be legally invalid. It has declared the marriage void. Once the annulment is complete, it will be as though the marriage never occurred. The court will remove all evidence and records of the marriage.

Pros and Cons of Annulment vs. Divorce

There are different benefits to an annulment or divorce because of the different legal classifications between the two. Divorced spouses have different rights than those who chose to annul their marriage. Rights such as spousal maintenance, pension benefits, and community property rights will not apply when a marriage is annulled, outside of very specific circumstances. The cost of the two should also be considered. An annulment will typically cost less than a divorce as there are fewer legal issues to resolve. However, this may not be true if it will be difficult to prove the annulment grounds or if it is being contested. Another benefit to annulments is their ability to avoid the six-month minimum residency that divorces require.

Finalizing Your Divorce


Q: What Is the Difference Between an Annulment and a Divorce?

A: An annulment allows the court to recognize a marriage as invalid and remove it from the public record. It will be as though it never happened, and the court system will remove all documentation relating to the marriage. A divorce is the dissolution of a marriage; it remains on the record, but both parties are considered legally single and able to remarry.

Q: How Long Does an Annulment Take?

A: There is no specific timeframe, but it is possible for an annulment to take less time than a divorce. Once the paperwork has been filed with the court, the filing party has 30 days to formally notify the other party. Then the secondary party has 30 days from the date of notification to respond. An annulment is exempt from the six-month waiting period that divorces are subject to.

Q: What Is the Difference Between a Religious and Civil Annulment?

A: A religious annulment is specific to the religion of the person seeking an annulment, and different religions have varying requirements. However, obtaining a religious annulment has no bearing on the legal standing of a marriage and only applies in the eyes of your religion. The couple must complete a civil annulment for the marriage to be invalidated from a legal standpoint.

Q: Is Domestic Violence or Abuse Grounds for an Annulment?

A: If the abuse occurred prior to the marriage, it could constitute the abusive party forcing you into the marriage. If this is true, it can count as grounds for an annulment. However, abuse that began after the marriage is unlikely to meet this requirement and will not qualify for an annulment.

Choosing an Annulment or a Divorce

There are many nuances to choosing an annulment or divorce if both are options available to you. Speaking with the experienced attorneys at Bickford Blado & Botros can help you make the best choice for your specific situation.



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