Annulment is a process that many people have only seen on television, but it does apply to some real-life marriages and domestic partnerships. The annulment process is often misunderstood because religious practices and popular culture tend to create an inaccurate representation of how it is applied legally. There are civil annulments, which legally nullify a marriage or domestic partnership, and religious annulments. Those granted by a clergy member or church, however, do not apply in the eyes of the California family court.
What’s the Difference Between a Divorce and an Annulment?
Individuals often believe that an annulment and a divorce are essentially the same thing, but they are actually two different determinations regarding marital status. The main difference between the two is that a divorce grants an ending to an existing valid marriage, but an annulment is a legal declaration that the relationship the parties considered to be a domestic partnership or marriage was never legally valid at all. As far as the law is concerned, an annulled marriage or domestic partnership never actually existed.
What Makes an Annulment Possible?
If an individual wishes to qualify for an annulment in the state of California, there are various reasons a court may honor their request, including the following.
- Either party used deception or perpetuated a fraud in order to get the other individual’s consent to enter into the marriage or domestic partnership. Such fraud may involve scenarios such as hiding the fact that the individual can’t have children or marrying with the sole purpose of obtaining a green card. The courts require proof that the fraud was related to something vital in the relationship that had a direct effect on the reason the deceived individual agreed to enter the domestic partnership or marriage.
- One of the parties has an incapacity that cannot be cured and renders them unable to engage in sexual relations. The most common type of incapacity that applies to annulment is impotence.
- The individual who is seeking the annulment was under the age of eighteen at the time of the marriage or domestic partnership.
- Either party was forced into entering the marriage or domestic partnership.
- One or both of the parties was not of “sound mind” and was unable to give consent as a result of the impairment. This may include drug or alcohol intoxication and various types of mental illness.
- One of the individuals committed bigamy by entering the relationship while they were already legally married.
- The couple is blood-related and therefore are in an incestuous relationship.
How Do You Get a Court Order for an Annulment?
If an individual wishes to get a court order for an annulment, it is not that different from filing for a divorce. There are certain steps a person must take if they want to request an annulment or if they want to oppose it. The California court requires these steps to be followed in great detail, so it is always best to hire a knowledgeable annulment attorney to navigate the process.
There is a statute of limitations in California for filing a petition for annulment. This is a strict deadline the court requires individuals to abide by, and it varies depending on the reason for the annulment request. Consider the following examples.
- The deadline for filing due to incapacity is four years after getting married or entering into the domestic partnership.
- An individual who was forced to consent to a domestic partnership or marriage also has four years to apply for an annulment.
- The four-year deadline is also applicable in situations where an individual consented as a result of fraud, but it begins at the time the person discovers the fraud.
- An annulment due to being of “unsound mind” can be filed at any time before either of the parties passes away. In this scenario, a conservator or relative of the individual may file for the annulment.
- If either of the individuals is applying for an annulment as a result of bigamy, they may do so at any time before the spouse from the first marriage dies.
- If the person applying for the annulment is doing so because they were underage at the time of the marriage or domestic partnership, they must do so within four years from the time they turn eighteen.
The complex legal issues that surround these statutes of limitations, along with serious custodial implications and financial circumstances, typically require the assistance of a skilled lawyer to sort out.
Does an Annulment Create Paternity Issues?
Every situation is different. In some cases, the paternity of a couples’ children is called into question as a result of annulment. The fact that an annulled domestic partnership or marriage renders it completely invalid means that any children the couple produced were technically born to single parents. In cases where this becomes an issue, a judge may need to settle the paternity question and then rule on the custody arrangement, visitation, and child support. In many cases, though, paternity issues are easily resolved because the state makes legal assumptions or “presumptions of paternity.” This basically means that although the legal relationship is deemed invalid through the annulment, the former husband is considered to be the father of the children.
Can You Get Alimony After Your Marriage Is Annulled?
Couples who are granted an annulment for their marriage or domestic partnership are not awarded alimony from the court, nor is the court able to rule on the distribution of debts and assets. Since the marriage was determined to have never legally existed, there is no reason to consider their property or debts to be “marital estate.” For couples who have gotten their marriage or domestic partnership annulled, the division of their assets and debts is up to them. Similarly, neither party involved in an annulment may receive alimony, and neither is able to claim survivorship benefits from the other.
Hire a Skilled Annulment Attorney to Represent You
If you believe that having your marriage or domestic partnership annulled is the best course of action, it is crucial to discuss the matter with an experienced annulment lawyer. Paula Kleinman has been handling family law cases with compassion and integrity for more than two decades, and she has the knowledge to guide you through the process. Visit our website today to see how she can help you.