Family Law Overview
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Carlsbad Annulment Lawyer
In California, an annulment is the legal procedure by which a domestic partnership or marriage is declared null and void by the family court. When an annulment is granted, the court order states that the domestic partnership or marriage was never valid or that it never legally existed from the moment it was created. It is essential to hire an experienced Carlsbad family law attorney to handle annulment cases, though, as such a procedure can involve many complications.
Understanding Legal Domestic Partnership vs. Marriage
California Family Code Section 300 defines marriage as a contract between two individuals who are at least 18 years of age, creating a personal relationship under the consent of each party. The marriage is not established by their consent alone, however. Obtaining a license and solemnization of the marriage must follow for the contract to be fulfilled. A marriage license is issued by the county clerk and remains as such until the judicial officer, rabbi, minister, or priest who solemnized the marriage records it with the county recorder. The license must be recorded within ten days of the ceremony, and then it becomes a marriage certificate.
Domestic partners in California are two individuals who choose to share their lives in a committed and intimate relationship of mutual caring. In order to be in a domestic partnership, the couple must file with the Secretary of State, using a document called a Declaration of Domestic Partnership. At the time they file, the following must be true:
- Each individual must be capable of consent.
- Both parties must be at least 18 years old, with certain exceptions.
- The individuals must not be related by blood.
- Neither person can be in a domestic partnership or marriage with another individual.
Domestic partners enjoy many of the same legal and financial protections as married couples, including the ability to take medical leave to care for their partner and being able to add them to their medical and dental plans. The rights afforded to domestic partners differ from those of married couples, however. For instance, domestic partners cannot transfer their assets to each other without paying estate taxes or gift taxes.
Void and Voidable Marriages
Void Domestic Partnerships and Marriages
California law regards these types of relationships as having never existed. For a legal relationship to be considered invalid from its inception, the couple should formally seek a judgment of nullity. This judgment defines the individuals’ marital rights and is entered into the public record. The following circumstances allow for a marriage or domestic partnership to be void.
- A marriage or domestic partnership that is not contracted lawfully. Marriages and domestic partnerships must comply with the applicable California state legislation from their inception to be valid. For example, if a couple gets married without first obtaining a marriage license, the marriage may be deemed void.
- Bigamy. If either partner in a marriage or domestic partnership was already married or in a legal domestic partnership with another individual at the time they entered into the legal relationship, theirs may be considered void.
There is an exception to this rule, however. This exception is dependent upon whether the former spouse of one of the parties was living but absent from the individual’s life and not known to be alive for at least five years before their current marriage or domestic partnership or was believed or reputed to be dead at the time of the current marriage. Such a scenario makes the relationship “voidable” and applies only to the deserted spouse. The former spouse who deserted them does not get this protection, and any current marriage or domestic partnership they are in would be considered “void.”
- Incest. A domestic partnership or marriage is void from its inception if it is between a parent and child, half or whole siblings, an aunt or uncle and their niece or nephew, or ancestors and descendants of any degree.
Voidable Marriages and Domestic Partnerships
Voidable domestic partnerships and marriages differ from void relationships in that they are valid until a judge grants a nullity. They must be deemed invalid by the court; otherwise, they are valid legal relationships. Certain criteria allow a marriage or domestic partnership to be voidable, including the following.
- Physical incapacity. If either one of the individuals is incapacitated and unable to consummate the relationship, and it seems that this incapacity is incurable, it is grounds for the relationship to be voidable.
- Force. If either party consented to the marriage or domestic partnership under force, the relationship is voidable unless that person continues to cohabitate freely with their spouse.
- Fraud. If consent was given for the legal relationship as a result of fraud, it makes it voidable. However, if the defrauded individual continued to engage in a relationship with the other party as their spouse after they were completely aware of the fraud, the relationship is still considered to be valid.
- Unsound mind. If either party was not able to understand the subject matter of the Declaration of Domestic Partnership or marriage contract and obligations involved therein, the relationship is voidable. If the individual comes to reason, however, and continues to cohabitate with the other party as a spouse, the relationship is valid.
- Minority. If either party was under the age of eighteen at the time of the marriage or domestic partnership and failed to acquire the required court or parental consent, the relationship is voidable. If the individual has reached the age of eighteen, however, and continues to live with the other party as their spouse, the marriage is not voidable.
How to Bring a Nullity Petition
A civil annulment is a legal process by which a judge grants a nullity to a domestic partnership or marriage. This differs from a religious annulment in that it is granted through a petition to the California Family Court. A religious annulment is one that is granted by a church or clergy official and holds no legal weight.
For a couple or an individual to begin a nullity action in California, they must file an FL-100. If the annulment is being sought by just one of the individuals in the marriage or domestic partnership, that individual has the burden of proof. In some cases, it is very difficult to produce the evidence to prove cause for the annulment, so it is always best to seek the counsel of an experienced Carlsbad annulment lawyer to increase the likelihood of a positive outcome.
Annulment Is Different From Divorce
One of the primary differences between a divorce and an annulment is that a divorce ends a marriage or domestic partnership that is legally recognized. In an annulment scenario, the relationship is considered to have never legally existed; thus, the individuals in the marriage or domestic partnership maintain the status of “unmarried persons” once the annulment is granted.
In a legally recognized marriage, the individuals may work with a divorce lawyer and go through processes such as legal separation or mediation before going through with the divorce and distribution of property. In such a case, the grounds for divorce typically arise after the legal establishment of the marriage or domestic partnership. In an annulment, however, the annulment attorneys will help the couple or the individual to prove that the marriage or domestic partnership was illegal from the outset or that it deviated from the requirements of California law when it was formed.
Children and Property in an Annulment
California law has what is known as “presumptions of paternity” related to children in an annulled domestic partnership or marriage. These strong legal assumptions typically determine that even though the legal relationship has been deemed invalid, the children’s father is, in fact, the former husband.
In regard to property, the courts have no authority in dividing property and debts or awarding alimony, as the annulled marriage or domestic partnership is viewed as never having been legally valid. In short, this means that there can be no marital estate if there was never a valid marriage. When a couple is granted an annulment, it is their responsibility to determine the distribution of their debts and assets. Community property laws that protect legally married couples no longer apply when an annulment is granted.
Since an annulment legally invalidates a domestic partnership or marriage, neither party is entitled to survivorship benefits such as retirement interests or inheritances from the other, and neither party may receive spousal support from the other.
Trust a Skilled Carlsbad Annulment Attorney with Your Case
When an individual chooses to seek an annulment of their marriage or domestic partnership in Carlsbad, it is vital to seek the legal counsel of an attorney with experience in the field. Paula D. Kleinman has spent over twenty years representing clients in all areas of family law and has substantial knowledge of the annulment process. Visit our contact page today to find out how she can help you.