What Are the Requirements for an Annulment in California?
Obtaining an annulment is much more complicated than your standard divorce. Rather than ending a marriage, as divorce does, an annulment declares the marriage invalid and, in essence, makes it so that it never existed.
For some, an annulment is the right path to end a marriage that they never wanted any part in. If you think you may qualify for an annulment, make sure you know the legal prerequisites.
The requirements for an annulment in California are as follows:
- At the time of the wedding, at least one spouse was already legally married.
The key word here is “legally.” Discovering that your spouse has a secret family or lover that believes they are married doesn’t count. This will likely qualify as grounds for a divorce, not an annulment.
- At least one spouse was suffering from mental illness at the time of the wedding.
Some mental illnesses do not outwardly present erratic behavior. But, in some cases, an ill person might awaken from an episode, finding themselves living an entirely unfamiliar life. Dissociative identity disorder, for instance, sometimes presents in this way. If a mental illness kept at least one spouse from making a clear choice to get married, that person can have the marriage annulled when they regain their senses.
- At least one spouse couldn’t legally agree to marry at the time of the wedding.
Sometimes, unusual scenarios arise that make someone unable to overtly consent to the wedding. These situations don’t necessarily arise from nefarious acts, though they can. Perhaps a couple planned to marry, but one of them became incapacitated. The other partner goes forward with legally marrying them, possibly as a means of helping them recover. Once the incapacitated party gets better, they may have the right to annul the marriage by claiming they weren’t legally able to agree to such a binding contract.
- At least one spouse was not physically present for the marriage.
Like the scenario described above, this situation could happen in good faith. Maybe one partner is stuck in another state or country, and the other manages to legally validate the marriage in their absence. Technically, this could be grounds to have the marriage annulled.
- At least one spouse was coerced into the marriage.
If someone can prove that they were forced to marry, they may be able to have the marriage annulled. Some cults have been found to coerce practitioners into marriage, for example. In some criminal organizations, marriages can also be used to consolidate power. Maybe someone was blackmailed into the marriage. Whatever the case, if someone was married under threat, they can have that marriage annulled.
- Either spouse was underage at the time of the marriage.
In some cases, an underage party can legally marry, but only with consent from their parents. If parents do not provide consent, however, an underage person cannot legally marry, and the marriage could then be annulled.
Statute of Limitations for an Annulment
It is also important to remember that in California there is a statute of limitations for annulments. In other words, you only have a limited window of time from the date the marriage began in which you can file for an annulment.
In the following cases, you have 4 years to file for an annulment:
- The mentally ill party regains their faculties. The four years begins once the person recovers.
- When one spouse was underage at the time of the marriage. The annulment can be filed before or after the underage party turns 18. This gives the underage party the ability to annul the marriage up to their 23rd birthday.
- The marriage was the result of coercion. The coerced party has four years from the beginning of the marriage to file for an annulment. In some situations, they may not be able to escape the marriage to file before the statute is up. In that case, courts may be considerate of this plight, or they may demand that the victim follow through on a standard divorce.
Remember, annulments invalidate marriages, so the state wants to be certain they are justified. Imagine, for instance, you come out of the fog of a severe mental illness to discover that you are now married. If you remain in that marriage for another four years, the state is going to assume you chose to be married. In most cases, if you wish to end a marriage 4 years after the vows were said, the marriage would be dissolved through a divorce.
If you are ready to file for an annulment, make sure you have a trustworthy attorney by your side. The legal complexities that come with these sorts of cases shouldn’t be faced alone.
Call (949) 565-4158 today to get in touch with our firm.