Ending a marriage is one of the hardest decisions you can make in your life. It is an emotional time for all involved, and tempers can run high. In a tough situation such as this, it is important to not let your emotions get the better of you and to carefully approach your next steps, legally.
There are three legal options available in marital separation in the state of California. They are divorce, annulment, and legal separation.
A separation does not end your marriage. Instead, it gives the parties in a marriage particular rights as individuals instead of a couple. A divorce and an annulment, on the other hand, will legally terminate the marriage.
Today, we will take a closer look at grounds and process of annulment in California, and compare it to a standard divorce.
Annulment vs. Divorce
Divorce and annulment are two different processes with a variety of outcomes. The important thing to remember is that there’s never a one-size-fits-all solution for any problem, which means each situation requiring legal advice should be considered individually.
When you file for divorce, the courts legally terminate a valid marriage. After the divorce is final, each party will be considered single. The law still recognizes the existence of the marriage but acknowledges that it ended because of irreconcilable differences.
An annulment effectively cancels a marriage, and once complete, the law doesn’t recognize that the marriage ever existed. While annulments aren’t as complicated as divorces, there are specific requirements that a case must meet to be eligible.
Grounds for an Annulment
Certain situations can occur that would deem a marriage invalid. Some reasons a judge may grant an annulment request are:
- If the couple is blood-related
- If one spouse was already legally married at the time of a second marriage
- If the person requesting the annulment was younger than 18 years old when they entered the marriage
- If the marriage is the result of fraud on the part of one of the parties
- If either spouse was forced into the marriage
- If either spouse had a mental condition (temporary or permanent) that prevented them from understanding what they were doing when entering the marriage
- If either party was incapable of consummating the marriage
The spouse asking for the annulment must prove to the judge that one of the above situations existed at the time of the marriage. If sufficient evidence does not exist, the judge will not grant the annulment.
Statute of Limitations for an Annulment
It’s important to know that there is a statute of limitations on when you can file an annulment. The reason for the annulment determines the statute of limitations.
- Pre-Existing Marriage — Any time as long as both parties are still alive
- Underage — Four years after the party turns 18
- Fraud — Four years after discovering the fraud
- Unsound Mind — Any time
- Force — Four years after the marriage
- Physical or Mental Incapacity — Four years after the marriage
The Annulment Process
Similar to a divorce, there is a process that you need to follow to get an annulment.
First, you have to file your request with the courts in your county before the statute of limitations runs out.
The petition requires a background of your marriage, an explanation of why you are requesting an annulment, and other terms you want to be included in the court’s decision. You also have the option to request a divorce if the courts cannot approve an annulment.
After that, you must complete a summons to notify your spouse within 30 days of filing for an annulment. They then have 30 days to respond. The annulment must be uncontested, and you and your spouse will be required to attend a court hearing. If your request is valid and you have submitted the proper documentation, the courts will grant the annulment.
How Paternity is Affected
Since the marriage is essentially “erased” when the judge grants the annulment, any children born during the “marriage” are considered born to a single mother. Because of this, you will need the judge to establish paternity for any children you have together. After establishing paternity, you can ask the judge to include custody, visitation, and child support in the annulment.
How Property and Debt Are Affected
Since the marriage will be deemed invalid, the community property laws that apply during a divorce do not apply to annulments. It also means that neither spouse has the right to spousal support or any portion of the other party’s retirement or pension benefits.
Let Our Experienced Team Represent You!
Dissolving a marriage can be difficult. Naturally, you want to put it all behind you and start with a clean slate. But proving that you have a valid reason for an annulment can be difficult, and having an experienced attorney by your side can make all the difference.
The partners at Azemika & Azemika have over 56 years of combined experience in Kern County Family Law. Our experience has allowed us to successfully handle some of the most challenging Bakersfield family law cases. We will aggressively represent you in the courtroom to help you reach your desired results.
Contact us today for a consultation.