Annulment of Marriage in California
- Important facts about annulment in California
- How to get an annulment in California
- 3 reasons to consider annulment instead of divorce
Annulments are rare, as they're hard to obtain. It's much easier to end your marriage via a traditional divorce proceeding. Sometimes, couples get divorced without ever setting foot in a courtroom, but that never happens with an annulment.
Important facts about annulment in California
All annulments involve lawyers. A legal professional can help you understand your case, providing you with legal advice about your options and possible strategies. Here are some key points to know if you're considering an annulment in California.
Annulment is a declaration of nullity
If you get an annulment, it's as if your marriage never happened. The court determines that your union is not legal and wipes it from your record.
After an annulment, you can check the box "single" on your tax forms and other legal documents. After a divorce, however, you must check the "divorced" box.
An annulment can only be granted for certain reasons
To get a declaration of nullity, you must demonstrate why your marriage was never legal. The burden of proof lies with the couple.
Most couples seeking an annulment cite fraud or misrepresentation. That’s a broad term that may cover a lot of different reasons, from infertility to criminal activity to infectious disease. In short, the argument is that your union was never a valid marriage to begin with.
Marriages that involve incest or bigamy are two types of voidable marriages. You might also be able to ask for an annulment if you were not of legal age (underage) at the time of the marriage or if you or your spouse suffered mental incapacity at the time of marriage.
Married couples who were coerced into marriage can also ask for an annulment.
You must go to court
You must stand in a courtroom to get an annulment. As such, you could pay more for an annulment than a divorce due to lawyer fees, which can quickly add up.
Note: A judge could decline your request for an annulment if you don't meet all of the necessary requirements. You might decide to get a divorce instead in these circumstances.
The residency requirement is minimal for annulment
Before you can file for a divorce, either you or your spouse must live in California for six months and in your filing county for three months. For an annulment, however, you just need to live in the California county where you file. It doesn't matter when you moved there.
The court will not help you with a settlement agreement
Unlike divorce, in which the court will step in and help you create your divorce settlement agreement if you and your spouse cannot agree on one, the state of California does not provide settlement help for annulments. And, since your marriage is essentially “erased,” there is no possibility for spousal support/alimony.
There may be a time limit
Some types of annulments require that you file for annulment no longer than four years after the marriage ceremony.
How to get an annulment in California
You can't handle an annulment case alone. You must work with a lawyer and stand in front of a judge to complete the annulment process. But there are steps you can take to get your case moving.
Step 1: Fill out the paperwork
Note: Your local court may have additional forms. Your court clerk's office can help you understand what they are and how they work.
Step 2: Make copies and file
The court requires two copies of each form you fill out. Take them to the court clerk in your county to file them. There will be a filing fee of approximately $435 to $450.
Step 3: Serve your spouse
Someone older than 18 who is not connected to your case must legally serve your partner the following:
- A copy of your forms
- A blank Marriage/Domestic Partnership form (FL-120)
Your server must fill out a Proof of Service Summons form (FL-115) and give it to you. Take the original and a copy of this form to your court and file them.
Step 4: Wait
Your spouse has 30 days to respond to your forms. If they don't, you can move forward with your case.
Either way, you'll need a court date to argue your case. A lawyer can help with this step.
3 reasons to consider annulment instead of divorce
Some organized religions, including the Catholic church, frown upon divorce. A religious annulment could be a better option, as it doesn't interfere with these traditions.
An annulment doesn't require couples to split assets 50/50. An annulment could be a better choice if you were tricked or coerced into marriage and want to keep your assets protected.
An illegal marriage could leave you open to additional charges. If the marriage is annulled, however, it is no longer a marriage at all.
Have questions about ending your marriage? Don't know where to start?
ReferencesAnnulment. (December 2020). American Bar Association.
Annulment . Judicial Branch of California.
Legal Reasons a Judge Can Annul a Marriage . Judicial Branch of California.
Start an Annulment Case . Judicial Branch of California.