In California, a court-approved annulment invalidates a marriage as if it never existed in the first place, while a divorce ends an existing, valid marriage. Keep in mind, state law does not impose a minimum or maximum duration for the marriage to determine eligibility for annulment.
There are a number of possible grounds—or reasons—that a judge might grant a request to annul a marriage, including:
- Incestuous – When a couple is related by blood.
- Bigamous – When one spouse was already married before entering into the second marriage.
- Age at the time of marriage – The individual requesting the annulment was not 18 years of age at the time of the marriage.
- Prior existing marriage – Either party was already legally married, which is different from bigamy because the marriage took place after the former spouse was absent for five years and not known to be living or generally thought to be dead.
- Fraud – Either party perpetrated a fraud to obtain the other party’s consent to marriage. The fraud must have been about something vital to the relationship that directly affected why the party who was deceived agreed to the marriage.
- Physically incapacity – The parties got married while one of them was “physically incapacitated,” which refers to impotence that prevents the couple from having sexual relations.
- Unsound mind – One or both spouses is of “unsound mind,” meaning a mental condition which prevents them from understanding or appreciating the nature or duties of marriage. This includes severe intoxication.
- Force – One spouse forced the other to get married.
To get an annulment, you must prove to the judge that one of the reasons mentioned above is true in your case. This means an annulment case is vastly different compared to a divorce, especially since “irreconcilable differences” is not an eligible ground for an annulment. The California court system has detailed, step-by-step instructions for how to request, oppose, an annulment.
It is imperative to know that there are certain deadlines—or statute of limitations—which sets time limits on when annulments can be filed. The deadline is based on the reason why you seek an annulment.
The following are the deadlines for annulment in California:
- If you’re filing for annulment because you married when you were under 18 years old, you have to file for annulment within four years after you became an adult.
- If you are filling for annulment due to bigamy, you or your spouse can file at any time while the spouse from the first marriage is alive.
- If you are filing because you provided consent to a marriage due to fraud, you have to file within four years of the time you discovered the fraud.
- If you’re filing on the basis of “unsound mind,” you can file at any time before you or your spouse passes away. Furthermore, a relative or conservator of the sick person can also file for annulment.
- If you’re filing because of physical incapacity, you need to file within four years of getting married.
- If you’re filing due to being forced to consent to marriage, you have to file within four years of getting married.
If you are interested in filing for an annulment, our Rocklin divorce attorneys at the Law Offices of Keegan & Myers PC have more than 25 years of legal experience and specialize in handling all types of family law matters. Contact us and request a consultation today.