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What is an Annulment?

You may have heard of an annulment, but do you know what it is? In California, it’s one way that couples can end their marriage. However, unlike divorce, not everyone will qualify for an annulment. The process is reserved for marriages that are inherently void and/or unlawful.

Annulment in California

When a marriage is annulled, it is as if the union never happened at all. As a result, the formerly-married couples are no longer bound by the laws of marriage or eligible to benefit from the union. This means that former spouses will no longer be prohibited from marrying other people, but they will also lose protections offered to married couples (e.g., tax benefits, property classifications).

Grounds for Annulment

A California court will only grant an annulment in a very limited number of situations. Marriages can be annulled if they are (1) legally void or (2) voidable.

Void Marriages

California state law prohibits marriage in certain circumstances. If these marriages happen to occur, they are considered void under the law. It is fairly simple to get a void marriage annulled. Void marriages include those involving:

Bigamy: It is unlawful for a person in California to have more than one spouse. If you find out that your spouse was already married at the time you exchanged vows, your marriage is void. There are limited exceptions to this if your spouse honestly believed that his or her other spouse was no longer alive.

Incest: Individuals who are related by blood are prohibited from getting married in California. This extends to:

  • Parents and their children
  • Siblings and/or half siblings
  • Aunts and uncles and their nieces and nephews.

While many states prohibit the marriage of first cousins, California law does not.

Your marriage may also be considered void if you failed to file the appropriate paperwork after your ceremony. A marriage is only legal once a marriage license has been obtained, signed by an officiant and witnesses, and filed with a local court. If you forget to do this your marriage will not be valid.

Voidable Marriages

Courts will automatically issue an annulment when it is presented with evidence that a marriage is void. While there are additional grounds on which you can seek an annulment, you will have to provide substantially more evidence to end your marriage.

Voidable marriages include those involving:

Force: If you can prove that you were forced to enter your marriage under threat of harm, you can request an annulment. You will have to prove that you entered the union against your will.

Fraud: Marriages entered into for a fraudulent purpose can be annulled. Once you learn that the marriage was perpetrated for fraudulent reasons, but continue to live with your spouse, the marriage will not be voidable. Example: you get married and later learn that the union was simply done to help your spouse gain citizenship. You can have the marriage annulled based on this fraudulent purpose. However, if you discover the fraud, but decide to remain married, the only way to end the marriage in the future is through divorce.

Sexual Dysfunction: Sex is a vital component of marriage. If your spouse is unable to engage in sexual activity because of a permanent disability, you can request to have the marriage annulled.

Age: California law requires all individuals to be 18 or have the consent of a guardian before getting married. If you were married while underage, you can request to have your marriage annulled. Annulment may not be a viable option if you continue to live with your spouse once you’ve turned 18.

Mental Incapacity: If one spouse suffers from a mental disability, and therefore cannot fully appreciate the purpose of marriage, the union can be annulled.

Getting an Annulment in Los Angeles

An annulment is a great option if you want to avoid the often time-consuming and stressful divorce process. If you interested in ending your marriage and believe that you may qualify for an annulment, call Berenji & Associates for help. Our Los Angeles annulment attorneys will review your case and explain the steps involved in securing an annulment. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation and learn more.