When you hear the word “annulment,” you most likely think of some religious institution granting the dissolution of a marriage. You may be surprised to learn that California courts also grant annulments under certain circumstances. Though a divorce dissolves a legally valid marriage, in an annulment, a judge says in a court order that your marriage or domestic partnership was not legally valid (as if the marriage never happened).
Grounds for Annulment
To grant an annulment, the court must find that the original grounds for your marriage are legally invalid. When filing for an annulment, you or your spouse must prove one of the following:
- You, your spouse, or both parties were under 18 years old without appropriate parental and court consent to marry.
- One party was legally married to an absent person missing and believed to be dead for five or more years.
- One or both parties were not mentally competent to enter into the marriage, such as by intoxication on vacation.
- You and your spouse are genetically related.
- One party defrauded the other into the marriage for a reason, such as to remain legally in the United States.
- One party forced the other into marriage through violence or threat of violence, blackmail, threats to family or livelihood, or coercion.
- One or both parties are physically incapable of engaging in marital relations, usually referring to impotence.
Because you must prove grounds for annulment for the court to grant the annulment, your divorce lawyer may recommend a no-fault divorce to dissolve the marriage rather than pursuing an annulment. By filing for a no-fault divorce, the petitioning party can cite “irreconcilable differences” and not have to prove a cause for the divorce.
Initiating Divorce Proceedings
Your divorce attorney at Seabrook Law Offices can help you bring a divorce case against your spouse. California is a no-fault divorce state, so the state doesn’t allow petitioners to cite fault in their reason for divorce. Instead, petitioners may cite an “irreparable breakdown of the marriage” or “irreconcilable differences.” You may also file for divorce due to “incurable insanity.”
To file for divorce, at least one spouse or partner must have lived in California for at least six months and in the county of filing for at least three months. The court may not pass a divorce decree until six months after the respondent receives the divorce paperwork or the respondent’s first court appearance, whichever is earlier.
Because a divorce dissolves a legal marriage, spouses may seek alimony, child custody, and child support in divorce proceedings. Additionally, the court can decide upon the division of marital assets and property if the spouses cannot reach an agreement in mediation or an uncontested divorce.
Spousal Support, Child Custody, and Child Support in Annulment and Divorce Cases
Divorce has several benefits over annulment when deciding how to divide assets, file for alimony, and seek child custody or child support. Because annulment makes a marriage invalid in the eyes of the law, neither spouse has a right to seek decisions by the court on these matters.
In effect, the spouses leaving an annulled marriage would need to divide their appropriate assets and debts without the court’s help. While you and your former partner may be able to seek help from a family lawyer to divide property amicably, neither has legal grounds to sue for half ownership of, say, a family business they started during the annulled marriage.
Also, neither partner can pursue alimony or spousal support after the annulment. In some circumstances, one partner may receive temporary spousal support during the annulment proceedings. Ask your divorce attorney if you need to pursue temporary alimony during annulment.
Annulments If You Have Children
Finally, an annulment can make child custody and child support extremely complex. “Presumption of Paternity/Parentage” in California effectively establishes presumptive parentage for a couple either married or registered as domestic partners at the time of conception, pregnancy, and birth.
However, due to the invalidation of the marriage in an annulment situation, the former husband will need to ask the court to establish the paternity of the children.
Parents of children in an annulled marriage must establish legal parentage to pursue child custody and child support in California. Parents may pursue legal custody to make decisions for the child’s well-being, physical custody to determine where the child will live, a visitation schedule for the non-custodial parent, and child support.
California courts will always make custody and child support decisions in the child’s best interests. For help with divorce, annulment, alimony, child custody, or child support, seek the legal services of our experienced family lawyers.
Contact Our Team at Seabrook Law Offices for a California Annulment or Divorce
Before you search online for “divorce lawyers near me,” consider our experienced team at Seabrook Law Offices. We strive to help our clients get a second chance at life after a divorce or annulment while helping parents protect their children through the process.
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The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.