An annulment is very different from divorces. In a divorce, there are no questions about the marriage. You simply want to end it and move forward with your life. In an annulment, the marriage itself is questioned—whether it is valid and enforceable. In California, there are 2 types of annulments: (1) void marriage (not legally valid; and (2) voidable marriage (declared invalid by the court).
There are 2 statutory grounds for “void marriage,” and other non-statutory grounds for a void marriage. These marriages are void from the start. They will not be made valid over time or by consent of the parties. Incestuous marriages (Family Code (FC) 2201) are instances when the people involved are close blood relatives. This does not apply to first cousins who are legally allowed to marry in California. Another is a bigamous marriage (FC 2200) are when a spouse or domestic partner is already married to or in a registered domestic partnership with someone else. Note, even though it is not found in the Family Code, the failure to obtain a marriage license results in a void marriage.
Voidable marriages are made void, not by law but by an order of the court. Each of the grounds for voidable marriage has a statute of limitations so the passage of time can make an otherwise voidable marriage valid:
(1) Age at the time of marriage FC 2210 (a). If not 18 at the time of marriage and did not have parental permission
(2) Prior existing marriage FC 2210 (b). When either party was married at the time of marriage, but for 5 years prior believed their spouse was dead or missing. This is different from a bigamous marriage. The difference is actual knowledge.
(3) Unsound mind FC 2210(c). When a party does not have the mental capacity to understand the obligations assumed by being married. Most common example is when Brittany Spears was able to get her 55 hours of marriage to Jason Alexander annulled.
(4) Fraud FC 2210(d). This is the most common basis for annulment. The fraud must be vital to the marriage. This can include getting married only to obtain a “green card”, lying about the ability to have children, and/or lacking the intent to observe the obligation of sexual fidelity.” In California, if one party is having an affair at the time of the marriage, this may be considered fraud.
(5) Force FC 2210(e). When a party only consented to the marriage as a result of force.
(6) Physical Incapacity FC 2210(f). A party is physically incapacitated (incapable of “consummating” the relationship) and incapacity continues and incurable.
Annulments can be difficult and fact driven along with having very specific timing requirements so it is critical that an experienced family attorney is a must.
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