Ask a Divorce Attorney – Annulment
Annulment (Nullity): A Court Ruling Rendering a Marriage Void
An annulment in the context of California family law is an adjudication by a family court judge that a legal marital relationship never existed. Once a judgment of nullity is entered the legal effect is that the marriage itself never happened. Only in certain situations will the parties to an annulled marriage have rights similar to those of a legally married couple.
A common misconception regarding annulments in California is that you can request an annulment due to buyer’s remorse. This not the case. In fact, so long as both parties were of sound mind and absent of fraud, even a marriage of one day cannot be legally annulled in California.
A “marriage” that qualifies for an annulment is either void as illegal or voidable due to conditions present at the time that the marriage was entered into. Bigamous marriages (marriages where one party is married to someone else at the time) are automatically nullified upon a showing that a prior marital relationship existed. Marriages that do not meet the legal requirements of a valid marriage (Marriage license and ceremony) are also automatically nullified. Every other type of nullity requires additional proof and the family court judge has discretion to grant or deny the request for nullity.
Voidable Discretionary Annulments include the following:
- Marriage obtained by force.
- One party has a physical incapacity to copulate.
- One party was of unsound mind at the time the marriage took place.
- Fraud perpetrated by one party in inducing the innocent partner into marriage. Nullity based on fraud may include a concealment of a pregnancy at the time of marriage, concealment of sterility, lying about a criminal record and immigration fraud to name a few.
Regardless of the manner by which a marriage is nullified, one or both parties may have the same rights to property division and financial support as if there were a valid marriage. This is because of the legal doctrine of a “putative spouse.”
If requested, the family court judge will grant putative spouse rights to a party to an annulled marriage that had a good faith belief that the marriage was valid. A putative spouse is entitled to spousal support and all property division rights that he or she would have had if the marriage was valid all along.
Annulments in California can be a very complex area of family law. You do not want to pass up rights that you may be entitled to. If you would like to weigh the pros and cons to a potential annulment given your particular situation call our office for a free case evaluation over the phone at 858-345-1720. Most of the time you will have the opportunity talk to an experienced family law attorney on the day that you call.