Orange County Annulment Attorneys
What is the difference between an annulment and a divorce? An annulment is when the Court determines that the marriage technically never existed and/or was never valid. In California, annulments are covered in Family Code Sections 2200 through 2210, and can be granted when a marriage is determined to be void or voidable.
A void marriage is considered void from the very beginning. In other words, no marriage ever occurred. On the other hand, a voidable marriage is valid unless one of the parties seeks an annulment. Below are the grounds for which a marriage can be found void or voidable:
1 Incest: Pursuant to Family Code section 2200, marriages between parents and children, ancestors and descendants of every degree, brothers and sisters, half brothers and half sisters, uncles and nieces, and aunts and nephews are incestuous and are void from the beginning.
2 Bigamy: Under Family Code section 2201, a marriage that occurs while either party is married to someone else is void, unless: (1) the former marriage has been dissolved or annulled before the date of the second marriage, or (2) the former spouse is absent and not known to be living for the five (5) years prior to the second marriage, or, the person is generally presumed or believed to be dead. Unless these to exceptions apply, the marriage legally does not exist.
1 Minority: If the petitioner to the action for nullity was under the age of 18 after the marriage and the required parental consent was not obtained, the marriage is voidable unless the petitioner freely continued to reside with the respondent as husband and wife after reaching the age of 18. (Family Code section 2210). (Parties under the age of 18 can marry provided they have parental consent and obtain a court order).
2 Bigamy: A bigamous marriage can also be voidable if the former spouse of either party is discovered to be alive when previously thought to be deceased. Either party or the former spouse can seek an annulment under Family Code section 2211.
3 Unsound Mind: A marriage is voidable if at the time of marriage, either party was of unsound mind, unless the party of unsound mine, after coming to reason, freely cohabitated with the other spouse (Family Code section 2210(c)). A person is of unsound mind when he or she is incapable of understanding the nature of the marriage contract and the responsibilities related to marriage.
4 Fraud: A marriage is voidable if the consent of either party was obtained by fraud, unless, after full knowledge of the fraud is known, the person whose knowledge was obtained by fraud freely cohabitated with the other as his or her spouse (Family Code section 2210(d). The fraud must go to the very essence of the marital relationship, and must be shown to have induced the marriage. Examples include false identity, misrepresentations about procreation, and using the martial relationship to secretly secure legal residency. An annulment based on fraud may only be filed by the party whose consent was obtained by fraud, and must be filed within four (4) years after the discovery of facts constituting the fraud. Fraud is difficult to prove, and more often than not, annulments based on fraud are regularly denied.
5 Force: A marriage is voidable if either party’s consent was obtained by force, unless the person whose consent was obtained by force freely cohabitates with the other as husband and wife (Family Code section 2210(e). Any annulment based on force may only be filed by the injured spouse within four (4) years of the marriage.
6 Physical Incapacity: A marriage is voidable if either party was, at the time of the marriage, physically incapable of entering into the marriage and the physical incapacity appears to be incurable (Family Code section 2210(f)). Physical incapacity is defined as the inability to engage in normal sexual intercourse. An annulment based on physical incapacity can only be filed by the non-incapacitated party and must be filed within four (4) years after the date of marriage.
Additionally, a dissolution of marriage filed in California requires a party to be a resident of the state of California for six months preceding the filing for divorce, and a resident of the county were the dissolution is filed for at least three months. However, there are no residency requirements to seek an annulment.
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Contact our office to speak with an experienced and knowledgeable attorney to learn more about the options available and if an annulment is the best option for you. Initial consultations are completely free and will leave you better informed and prepared for whatever you decide to do.