WHEN THERE WAS NEVER A VALID MARRIAGE
Is Annulment An Option?
The term annulment often conjures up ideas regarding religious beliefs and how certain faiths allow members to essentially revoke their marriages. However, an annulment or “nullity” is also a legal process by which a person can have their marriage declared void and null from the very beginning. Understanding the distinctions between an annulment and divorce can help you determine your legal rights.
Annulment vs. Divorce
Divorces legally end what the state of California considers to be a valid marriage. Conversely, an annulment claims that the marriage was never valid or legal, and therefore was null and void from the start. Without a legal marriage to begin with, the decisions regarding how to finalize a relationship differ drastically according to the law than those of divorce.
If you believe your current situation falls outside the typical realm of divorce and you need an annulment, speak with an Orange County annulment lawyer as soon as possible to determine your options. An annulment is an entirely different legal proceeding than a divorce. While a divorce terminates a marriage, an annulment formally declares a marriage never technically existed in the first place. This is an important distinction that can have dramatic consequences on a person’s life, so proper legal counsel is essential for anyone considering an annulment.
Average Timeline for an Annulment
An annulment will typically proceed much more swiftly through the court system than a typical divorce. However, there are several determining factors when it comes to exactly when annulment proceedings begin. The statute of limitations or time limit for filing for an annulment changes based on the grounds on which you are requesting annulment. For example, if you are filing for an annulment on the grounds that the marriage occurred prior to your 18th birthday, you have four years from the date of your 18th birthday to file for an annulment.
Annulment proceedings typically occur rapidly once the initial motion is filed with the court. If you are filing for an annulment, you are not beholden to the same residency requirements as you would face in divorce. Additionally, you can file for an annulment as soon as a few days after your marriage, if necessary. The only waiting period you may potentially face is the 30 days the court will provide the respondent to answer your annulment petition.
It is important to remember that the court has a duty to ensure that a marriage is invalid before it will grant an annulment. Even if you have filed on specific grounds for annulment and your spouse does not contest those grounds, the court will still want to establish evidence that the marriage was actually invalid before they will grant an annulment. If your concern is simply ending your marriage, divorce is always a viable alternative if an annulment seems too difficult to secure.
Grounds for Annulment
Not every relationship will have legal grounds for annulment, and in fact, annulments are rarely granted. In order to qualify for an annulment, specific grounds must exist, and even then, annulment is not guaranteed. It is important to remember that an annulment is not a different kind of divorce; it is different from divorce altogether and effectively reverses a formal legal decree. You should be prepared for the time and effort required to see the annulment process through to completion if you are certain this route is most appropriate for your needs.
Orange County annulment lawyers are your best resources when you are unsure whether grounds for annulment exist within your marriage. Once you have retained an experienced attorney who can review your situation, they can inform you whether grounds for annulment exist and what to expect from filing for annulment in Orange County.
The main determining factor in whether you have valid grounds for annulment is whether the marriage in question was ever legally valid. In some situations, this may require extensive investigation. In others, the invalidity of some marriages is perfectly obvious.
Never Legally Valid
Marriage in the state of California is never legally valid if it is between two close blood relatives (incest), or between two people where one is already previously legally married to another person (bigamy). In some cases, bigamy may occur accidentally, such as when a previous spouse has abandoned their partner, but the marriage was never legally dissolved. In other cases, bigamy is conducted intentionally, and this may lead to criminal prosecution.
Additional Grounds for Annulment
Bigamy and incest are the two clearest examples of grounds for annulment in California, but many other factors can invalidate a marriage. If a marriage includes any of the following listed items, it may be declared invalid.
- One spouse was under 18 years of age. California, surprisingly, does not uphold a minimum age for marriage. It is perfectly legal for any individual under the age of 18 to get married with a court order and/or parental consent. However, if a marriage took place and one of the spouses was younger than 18 and did not have appropriate permission, it is invalid.
- One spouse finds out that their previous spouse is alive that was thought to be dead due to an absence of 5 or more years. In this situation, the spouse will need to consult with an Orange County annulment attorney. A lawyer can determine whether they must file for annulment or if there is an alternative legal remedy in place that will validate their current marriage if they wish to remain married to their current spouse. This typically requires formally divorcing the previous spouse and then remarrying the current spouse with a new marriage license.
- One spouse was of “unsound mind” at the time of the marriage
- One spouse committed fraud against the other spouse in order to get married
- One spouse forced the other spouse to get married
- One spouse lacks the physical capacity to consummate the marriage and never disclosed this to the other party
If any of these factors exist within a marriage, then it is possible for one or both of the spouses to pursue annulment proceedings and have the marriage formally declared null and void.
Proving Grounds for Annulment
The presence of grounds for annulment is not always perfectly clear. In some situations, it may be necessary to investigate personal records, communication records, and other evidence to determine whether a marriage is valid. Your Orange County Annulment lawyer is your best resource when it comes to determining the best way to prove your grounds for annulment in California.
Statute of Limitations
You only have a certain amount of time to file for an annulment in the state of California, unlike a divorce or a legal separation. Once this statute of limitations (deadline) occurs, you will have no legal recourse regarding getting an annulment. Obtaining an annulment means that because your marriage was never valid, you will likely not have the same rights or legal obligations as those partners getting divorced will. It is critical you visit with an experienced attorney in order to ensure your legal rights are protected and you file your annulment before the deadline, and you lose the legal ability to do so.
End Result, Terms, and Conditions of Your Annulment
While an annulment and a divorce are very different legal processes, they are similar in some respects. Some individuals may not realize they are in invalid marriages for many years, while others file for annulment within days of marrying. It’s possible the couple may have children together and acquired property together over the years. If they decide to see annulment proceedings through in Orange County, the court presiding over their case will also make determinations concerning child custody, child support, and even alimony.
California is a community property state, and the legal statutes concerning community property in divorce will come into play after an annulment is granted. Any property the couple gained while married is still subject to community property distribution, even if the marriage is declared null and void with an annulment. Orange County marriage annulment attorneys help their clients prepare for the legal proceedings that are sure to follow their annulment proceedings.
Fighting an Annulment
In some cases, a spouse may file for an annulment while the other spouse wishes to remain married. However, the determining factor in granting an annulment is the validity of the marriage. If one spouse has declared a marriage is invalid on specific grounds and the other spouse disagrees, the spouse fighting the annulment must establish the validity of the marriage.
Any spouse in this situation must realize that while they may be able to contest an annulment of their marriage, there is nothing stopping their spouse from simply filing for divorce if annulment proceedings fail. However, the legal distinction between an annulment and a divorce can be important in some situations. A divorce may offer a more agreeable outcome to a spouse than an annulment.
Learn How an Annulment Attorney Can Help You
Annulments can be a time-consuming process that involve a great deal of complex legal analysis and require a great deal of evidence. Contact an experienced attorney familiar with annulments today at the Law Offices of Lisa R. McCall, A Professional Corporation, at 714.644.8760 or online today to schedule a consultation, and learn how to ensure your legal rights are protected if you make the decision to file for an annulment in the state of California.