Getting an annulment is a serious decision. It does not have the same effects as a divorce, since an annulment is the virtual wiping away of a marriage from history. After an annulment, it is as if the marriage never occurred in the court’s eyes. You will no longer have the presumption of paternity over children conceived during the marriage or have the right to demand child support from a spouse. Before you choose annulment, understand the ramifications of your decision.
The Difference Between Annulment and Divorce
A divorce is a legal dissolution of marriage, effectively ending a valid marriage and returning both parties to the status of single people with the option to remarry. After a divorce, the law still recognizes the marriage as having existed in the past but ended due to irreconcilable differences.
Unlike a divorce, an annulment cancels a marriage. After an annulment, it is as if the marriage never existed. The courts will not recognize you or your spouse as ever being married and will toss records of your marriage as invalid. The courts may find a marriage invalid for a variety of reasons, including:
- At the time of marriage, one of the spouses was less than 18 years of age
- The parties are close blood relatives or one of them is bigamous
- One of the spouses is of unsound mind or unable to understand the nature of marriage
- One of the spouses entered the marriage as the result of fraud or force
- One of the spouses is irreparably physically incapacitated and unable to consummate the marriage
If the courts decide your marriage is invalid, it will declare that the marriage never existed from the standpoint of the law. Annulments are not as complex as divorces, but they do have their own set of requirements.
Steps to Getting an Annulment in California
You must file your request for annulment with the courts in your county before the statute of limitations for an annulment runs out. In California, the time limit differs depending on the situation. If you base your annulment on physical incapacity, age, or force, you have four years to file. If a marriage is invalid due to fraud, you have four years from the time you discover the fraud. You can file an annulment based on existing marriages or unsound mind(s) at any time.
As with a divorce, you must file the proper documents with the court for it to consider approving your annulment. The petition for annulment includes background information about your marriage, the reason(s) for the annulment, and the terms you want the court’s decision to include. If you want the courts to approve a divorce in the event they do not approve your request for annulment, you can check both the “nullity” and “dissolution” boxes on the form and write “alternative” near the dissolution box.
You must complete the summons to notify your spouse of the petition for annulment within 30 days of filing. The other party has 30 days from the time he or she receives the summons to respond. You must achieve an uncontested proceeding, whether it is the result of a spousal agreement to the summons or a default judgment. Then, you and your spouse must attend a court hearing regarding your request. If your request is valid and supported by the proper documentation, the judge will grant the annulment—and you will obtain an official order.
If you need help familiarizing yourself with the annulment process in California or need a Los Angeles family attorney to speak for you during an annulment hearing, contact our Boyd Law office in Los Angeles, CA for help in Los Angeles and anywhere else in the state of California.