Marriage can be a wonderful experience shared by two individuals, but sometimes the connection between them dissolves, and they separate or divorce. For those recently married, however, an annulment may be an option so long as the couple meets specific criteria to qualify. While both divorces and annulments legally end marriages, divorces are considered legal terminations of the marriage, while an annulment is a way to declare that the marriage never occurred. Annulments sound appealing for that reason, but they are only granted under certain terms, and the petitions must be filed within the statute of limitations. A Pasadena Family Law attorney can help you determine if an annulment is right for you.
Qualifying for an Annulment
Annulments can be difficult to obtain because the qualifications generally must prove that the marriage was illegal, conducted under falsities, or a physical or mental obstacle prevents a healthy marriage. Marital situations that could qualify for an annulment include:
- Spouses share blood relations. Marriages between individuals who are related by blood are never legalized.
- Bigamy. When one of the spouses is still in a legal marriage to another individual, then the new marriage is not considered legal.
- Underage. An annulment can be filed within the statute of limitations if a spouse is under the age of legal consent, 18.
- Fraud. Some marriages are established under false pretenses. One spouse may enter the marriage with the intent to engage in fraud, or they may convince their spouse to enter the marriage under fraudulent ideas. As an example, a couple who marries to obtain a green card could be considered a fraudulent marriage. However, to be granted an annulment, the fraud must speak to the core of the reason for marriage.
- Physical incapacity. A spouse who suffers from a physical limitation that prevents the possibility of a healthy sex life or their ability to raise children may qualify for an annulment.
- Mental incapacity. Whether temporarily or permanently, if one spouse suffers from negative mental health or disorder that prevents them from understanding the commitment of marriage or prevents them from understanding the marriage, then an annulment may be granted. This can often happen between couples who were “overly intoxicated” at the time of the marriage as they were not of sound mind.
- Force. If either spouse convinces the other spouse to enter the marriage through force, then they may petition for annulment.
Statute of Limitations
Like most laws, there is a statute of limitations under which an annulment can be petitioned. However, each of the qualifications for an annulment brings with it a different timeline. The annulment doesn’t need to be finalized within the timeframe, but the petition must be submitted to the court.
- Spouses share a blood relationship. This marriage is never recognized as legal, and therefore an annulment is unnecessary.
- Bigamy. Petitions may be filed anytime during the life of the spouses. The only requirement is that both spouses are still alive.
- Underage. Regardless of the age at which the marriage occurred, an annulment petition must be filed within four years after the underage spouse reaches the age of 18.
- Fraud. No matter how long the marriage has been in place, from the moment the fraud is discovered, there is a 4-year time limit to file for an annulment.
- Physical incapacity or force. A petition for annulment must be filed within four years of the marriage.
- Mental incapacity. In this situation, the individual suffering the incapacity, their authorized agent, or a family member may file for annulment any time before death.
The Process of Annulment
When a marriage qualifies for an annulment and is within the statute of limitations, the spouse seeking it must first sign a petition and include the documentation that meets the necessary qualifications. This petition is then filed with the court in the county of residence so long as the residence has been established for a minimum of 6 months. Once filed, it will then be served to the non-filing spouse, who will need to respond. The preparation for litigation begins with the completion of additional paperwork, filings with the courthouse clerk, and finally, the hearing in front of a judge.
Q: What Qualifies as an Annulment in California?
A: An annulment is a very specific legal declaration that states that a marriage or other domestic partnership is not legally valid. If an annulment is granted, the resulting legal recognition is that your marriage may never have occurred. In general terms, there was a legally questionable reason that the marriage occurred.
Q: What Are the Reasons for Allowing an Annulment in California?
A: There are several reasons that a marriage qualifies for an annulment, but it must be shown to be illegal from the start. One spouse who is under the age of 18, one spouse who is currently involved in a separate marriage, or one spouse who tricked the other into the marriage are all examples of ways a marriage could be considered illegal.
Q: Is An Annulment the Same As a Divorce in California?
A: While both are ways of dissolving a marriage, they serve different legal purposes. In both cases, agreements and settlements will be made between the spouses prior to the dissolution; however, a divorce states that the marriage has legally terminated, while an annulment concludes that the marriage never occurred.
Q: What Are the Time Limits To File for Annulment?
A: Generally speaking, there is a 4-year time limit attached to annulments. However, calculating those four years varies depending on the circumstances. For cases of fraud, the time limit begins when the fraud is discovered. If one spouse is underage, the four years begins at the time of their 18th birthday. There is no statute of limitations for physical incapacities or marriages under force.
Pasadena Family Law Attorney
Ending a marriage can be difficult, but when the marriage should have never occurred, an annulment may be an option that can legally make it appear as if it didn’t. However, emotions and decisions still surround an annulment, just as they would in a divorce. If you believe you qualify for an annulment, Khalaf Law Group has the experience that can not only answer your questions but help guide you through the difficult process. Contact our offices today.