Annulment versus divorce. Divorce makes many people wish they could erase their marriage altogether. The fact is that some individuals actually can. In specific circumstances, couples may seek an annulment, which essentially pronounces that what had previously been considered by all to be a marriage never existed at all. This unique legal maneuver requires the assistance of an experienced family law attorney.
Who Qualifies for an Annulment?
Legal annulment is not available to just anyone. Grounds for annulment are quite explicit:
- When the partners are closely related by blood;
- When one partner is engaging in bigamy (is already married to someone else).
- When the marriage occurred prior to the eighteenth birthday of one or both of the individuals;
- If the marriage was based on a fraud, meaning one person misled another to convince them to marry;
- If one spouse suffers an incurable physical incapacity, or is unable to engage in sexual relations;
- When one or both individuals is of unsound mind, meaning he or she is incapable of understanding the responsibilities and overall nature of marriage;
- If one person forced the other into the marriage.
Statute of Limitations for an Annulment
The law does have timelines to file for annulment, depending on the reason for the request:
- Bigamy: You can file at any time;
- Age: If you married prior to your eighteenth birthday, you must file within four years after turning 18;
- Fraud: You must file within four years of ascertaining the fraud;
- Physical Incapacity: You must file within four years of the marriage;
- Unsound Mind: You can file any time;
- Forced Marriage: If you were forced into the marriage, you must file within four years.
What About the Children?
Just as the marriage is erased, the legal presumption of paternity for your children is removed in annulment, as well. Therefore, the judge must grant parentage. The court will also establish custody, visitation, and child support parameters.
Division of Assets
Since you will legally never have been married, you will not be able to take advantage of California’s Community Property laws. Likewise, you will not be entitled to your partner’s pension, retirement benefits, or any form of spousal support or alimony.
Punitive Spouse Status
In certain rare cases, you may be able to prove that you believed the marriage to be legal under California law, and you may be able to argue that you are entitled to typical marriage assets and support. Continue reading →