How to Petition for an Annulment in California
If you are married and currently living in California, one effective option for dissolving your marriage is by petitioning the court for an annulment. Compared to a divorce, in which a marriage is considered legally over, an annulment declares that the marriage was invalid. An annulment means, from a legal standpoint, that it never existed. If you’re considering dissolving your marriage, consider the following information for how to petition for an annulment, what the statutes of limitations are for filing your petition based on the grounds you are claiming for annulment, and what you can expect after filing your petition.
The best way to ensure you complete this process properly according to California law requirements is to retain the services of a qualified family law attorney. Contact Bickford Law today to get started on the annulment petition process with the help of family law experts that offer decades of experience in handling these complex cases.
How to Petition for an Annulment
Step One: Fill out all necessary court forms. You will need to complete both a Petition and a Summons. In the first one, you will provide information about your marriage and the grounds you will be attempting to prove. In contrast, the second includes vital information about the process and outlines restraining orders concerning property and keeping children within the state of California during the process. The Declaration and Attached Declaration forms require you to state your grounds for requesting an annulment. Additional forms must be completed if you share children together or request temporary orders be issued by the judge for spousal support, bill payment, child support, or other issues.
Step Two: File these court forms with the county clerk. Make two copies of all of your forms and turn these into the county clerk, along with the original forms and a filing fee.
Step Three: Serve your spouse with the first set of court forms. Because California law states that you are required to inform your spouse you have begun the annulment petition process, you must appoint someone to “serve” them with copies of your court forms. This “server” will also be providing a blank Response form that your spouse must fill out, sign, and return. They can serve these forms by hand-delivering them or by sending them in the mail along with a Notice and Acknowledge of Receipt.
Step Four: Schedule a court hearing. You will appear before the judge, who will either approve or deny your petition for annulment. Your spouse has the right to attend this hearing and provide reasons for opposing your petition.
California Annulment Timeline
Typically, the state of California makes it possible to petition for the annulment of marriage only during a specific time frame after the marriage is contracted. Depending on the grounds for which one of the parties seeks annulment, different statutes of limitations are outlined. If you want your petition for annulment to be approved, you bear the burden of responsibility for presenting evidence of one of the following:
- Petitioning for an annulment on the grounds of fraud must be completed within four years of uncovering the fraudulent behavior.
- Claiming forced consent as grounds for an annulment requires you to file your petition within four years of the marriage date.
- Petitioning for an annulment on the grounds of age may only occur within four years of the petitioner reaching the age of 18.
- Claiming an unsound mind as grounds for an annulment does not need to occur within a certain time frame but can be done at any time before the death of the mentally ill spouse. If someone experienced a mental health condition that prevented them from fully understanding the scope and obligations of marriage, a family member or advocate can petition on their behalf for the annulment.
- Claiming physical incapacity as grounds for an annulment requires the petition to be filed with the court within four years of the marriage date. Usually, it must include proof of this incapacity, such as medical records, lab reports, or an official statement from a family doctor or other qualified medical professional.
- Petitioning for an annulment on the grounds of a pre-existing marriage can be completed at any time while the spouse is still living.
Failure to petition for an annulment within the specified timeframe means the party seeking the annulment must seek alternative options for dissolving their marriage, such as filing for divorce. Petitioning during the statute of limitations but neglecting to provide the appropriate supporting evidence will most likely result in the court denying the request, so it is vital to gather comprehensive information that will effectively back your claim.
What to Expect After an Annulment
If the court rejected your petition, you can either amend the petition to alter the information that resulted in the denial of your annulment, or you can petition for divorce. If the court approved your petition, your marriage is no longer considered legally valid by the state of California, and your record will not include this marriage. Because the annulment means your marriage never technically existed, you will not be eligible for spousal support or survivorship benefits, such as inheritances, trusts, or retirement accounts. During a divorce, property acquired by either party throughout the course of a legal marriage is considered community property, making it subject to division and redistribution. However, any property or other assets acquired during a marriage that has been declared invalid remains the property of the individual.
Typically, any children resulting from an annulled marriage will be considered by the law as being born to single parents, so paternity must be proven if you wish to pursue custody, seek child support, or establish a visitation agreement. In California law, however, there is what is referred to as presumptions of paternity. In such cases, the child of a woman cohabiting with her partner is considered to be a child that resulted from that relationship and is therefore presumed to be the child of her partner, as well. This allows for the maintenance of legitimacy even after a marriage is declared to be no longer legally valid.
Choose a Qualified California Family Law Attorney
The annulment process is complex, time-consuming, and requires attention to detail that only an experienced family law attorney can provide. Call the experts at Bickford Family Law. We can guide you through every step of this process, ensuring the best possible results. To schedule a consultation, call us today at (858) 793-8884 or complete the form on our website.
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