Many people erroneously think that an annulment is just another word for a divorce. While both of these legal methods are used to dissolve a marriage, they are not interchangeable terms. Unlike a traditional divorce where you simply end your marriage, in an annulment your marriage is legally deemed to have never existed. In California, an annulment can only be granted if the circumstances surrounding your marriage are in some way unlawful. The following questions can help you determine if a marriage is eligible for annulment.
1. Was a Spouse Underage?
If one of the spouses was underage at the time of the marriage and did not have parental consent, it is legally invalid. If a spouse got married before their 18th birthday, they will be legally eligible to file for an annulment until four years after arriving at the age of consent.
2. Was a Spouse Already Married?
If one of the spouses was legally already married to another person, this can also make a marriage eligible for an annulment. This is galled “bigamy,” which is illegal. A person cannot knowingly enter into another union if they are still legally bound to someone else through marriage. There are special considerations for this, however, as it is sometimes acceptable if it is believed that the previous spouse was believed to be dead or had been absent for a considerable amount of time.
3. Did the Marriage Involve Coercion?
A person cannot manipulate or blackmail someone into getting married. For a marriage to be legally recognized, both parties need to willingly enter into the matrimony of their own accord.
4. Is a Spouse Impotent?
If a couple is unable to consummate their marriage due to male impotence or some other reason that prevents sexual intercourse, an annulment may be sought. According to California law, a dissolution of the marriage for this reason via an annulment can be pursued within four years after the marriage began.
5. Are the Spouses Related?
Incestuous marriages are prohibited in California. If you are related, you cannot marry one another. There are zero exceptions to this rule under state law.
6. Did Both Spouses Have Sufficient Mental Capacity?
Both spouses need to have sufficient mental capacity at the time of their marriage in order for it to be valid. This means that a person needs to be capable of understanding their choices at the time of the marriage ceremony. If a person was drugged or inebriated at the time of their union, they might be able to seek an annulment on these grounds; however, if a spouse were to become of sound mind following their marriage and consent to living as a married couple, pleading mental incapacity would not likely work.
7. Was Fraud a Factor?
Fraud is possibly the most common grounds for annulment. A person cannot misrepresent themselves or conceal some substantial information in order to convince their spouse to marry them. If fraud is discovered surrounding the formation of a marital relationship, the wronged party has four years from the date of discovering the fraudulent acts to file for an annulment.
If you believe that your marriage occurred under any of the above circumstances, you may be able to void your marriage with the help of an experienced Riverside County divorce lawyer from Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich. With more than 50 years of combined experience, we can examine the unique circumstances of your situation and advise you on the most appropriate course of action.