Annulment Vs Divorce, What’s The Difference?

Carlsbad, CA – If you have realized that the dissolution of your marriage is inevitable, you should know that divorce may not be your only option. In fact, an annulment may be the better option. While California divorces may be lengthy and expensive, annulments may be quicker and more affordable. However, you must meet certain requirements. Read on to see if seeking an annulment may be your best choice.

The Difference Between Annulment And Divorce In California

In California, a divorce is the legal ending of a domestic partnership or marriage. Typically, a person chooses to file for divorce due to irreconcilable differences between the two parties. Furthermore, since California is a no-fault divorce state, there is no need to list a specific reason (such as adultery) to terminate the relationship.

Unlike a divorce, which acknowledges that the marriage or domestic partnership was valid but needs to be dissolved, an annulment seeks to sever the relationship by declaring it null and void. Simply stated, a divorce is a legal declaration to terminate the contract of marriage, while a California annulment aims to prove that the marriage was invalid and the nuptials should never have been recognized in the first place.
Annulment and Divorce Carlsbad
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Similarly, once a California family court judge enters the annulment, it is legally as if the marriage itself never happened. Unfortunately, many people are under the impression that you can request an annulment simply because both parties regret the decision to wed. This not the case. In fact, so long as each spouse was of sound mind and absent of fraud, even a one-day marriage cannot be legally annulled in California.

Qualifying for an Annulment in California

Typical “marriages” that are able to be annulled are determined illegal or voidable due to conditions present at the time that the parties entered into the marriage. For example:

  • Bigamous marriages (one party is already legally married to someone else)
  • Marriages unable to meet legal requirements (no marriage license and ceremony)
  • Incest, which means that both parties in the relationship are close blood relatives (parents and children, aunts and nephews, uncles and nieces, brothers and sisters)
  • One of the spouses was under the legal age of 18 and failed to receive proper parental consent.
  • One party was unsound of mind to understand the nature of the marriage and the obligations included in it.
  • One party was physically incapable to consummate the marriage.
  • One party married as a result of force or fraud, including concealment of a pregnancy at the time of marriage, concealment of sterility, lying about a criminal record, and marrying solely to obtain a green card.

Of course, these are short and simplified explanations of the reasons for an annulment. Each scenario has important details that must be proven in order to qualify for an annulment and the family court judge has discretion to grant or deny the request for nullity.

Rights And Obligations Concerning Children

Further unlike a divorce, if the couple has children together and get an annulment, the legal presumption that children born within a marriage are children of the couple no longer applies. This means that if you get an annulment, you must request that the judge establish parentage (paternity) for all children shared with the other party.

Rights And Obligations Concerning Property And Debt

Additionally, by claiming that your marriage (or domestic partnership) is not legally valid, you are also agreeing that your legal right to California’s community property laws does not exist. This means that you cannot depend on community property laws to divide any property or debt that you acquired during your relationship.

If requested, the judge can grant putative spouse rights to the party that entered into the invalid marriage in good faith belief that it was legally binding. A putative spouse is entitled to spousal support and all property division rights that he or she would have in a divorce.

Statute Of Limitations To File For An Annulment

The statute of limitations, or timeframe for filing, for divorces have no deadline. You can file for divorce at any time. However, annulments do have a deadline, and generally, once the statute of limitations expires, you can no longer file for an annulment.

Should I Get an Annulment or Divorce?

If you qualify for an annulment, it is usually the best and quickest method for the dissolution of your marriage. However, annulments in California can be a very complex area of family law, and the period of time within which you can file for an annulment varies according to the reason.

If you or a loved one are considering a divorce or an annulment, it is best not to try and navigate the process yourself. email John Griffith, experienced divorce attorney, today! Or call our office for a free case evaluation at 858-345-1720.

Now serving clients in Oceanside, Carlsbad, Vista, Escondido, Encinitas, La Costa, Cardiff, Solana Beach, Del Mar, San Elijo Hills, La Jolla, City of San Diego, El Cajon and Chula Vista.
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