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Is My Marriage Eligible for Annulment?

Annulment and divorce are not the same. They each have specific requirements and outcomes.

Divorce ends a marriage while acknowledging the length of that marriage. Your record indicates that you were married from one specific date to another. It shows the name of your partner, and the marriage remains part of your legal history.

Annulment essentially disqualifies a marriage. The law acknowledges that the marriage should never have taken place and nullifies its existence. You don’t have to worry about complicated property divisions or other such decisions, because your marriage has been invalidated.

Legally, an annulment requires more stringent qualifications. You can’t simply decide that you don’t want to be married anymore. You must prove that the marriage is invalid. Here are California’s requirements for a marriage annulment.

At Least One Person Is Already Legally Married

No states formally recognize bigamy. When someone is legally married to one person, they cannot become legally married to another. If either party in a marriage discovers that their spouse is already legally married, even on a technicality, the marriage can be annulled.

At Least One Person Is Mentally Ill

The law assumes that anyone entering a marriage does so with awareness and a sound mind. If either party was unable to rationally make this choice because of a mental illness, the marriage can be nullified.

The spouse must be mentally incapacitated at the time of the marriage. This is an important distinction. If someone becomes incapacitated later, and their spouse wants to end the marriage, this requires a standard divorce.

At Least One Person Can’t Consent to the Marriage

Mental illness is only one way that a person may be incapable of agreeing to a marriage. If, for any reason, one party can prove that they couldn’t consent to the marriage, it can be annulled.

At Least One Person Is Physically Inaccessible

It may sound obvious, but both parties must be present to consent to the marriage. Imagine, for instance, one partner is stuck in another state, but the other moves forward and files the marriage paperwork in their absence. A situation like this could be grounds for an annulment.

At Least One Person Is Forced into the Marriage

There are many scenarios in which someone could be coerced into a marriage. Perhaps they were blackmailed, or their marriage was arranged by a criminal organization. Maybe there was a case of ID fraud, and the person didn’t even know they were legally married. Even someone who grew up in a strict religious cult could argue that the group forced them to marry their spouse. If you were married under duress, you may be able to have your marriage disqualified.

At Least One Person Is Underage

Minors under 18 cannot marry without a parent’s written permission. If either party is underage at the time of the marriage, that union can be nullified.

Statute of Limitations

Some of the above stipulations require deadlines. For instance, someone who is underage will eventually grow up, nullifying the original problem.

In these scenarios, the law gives spouses a four-year window for an annulment. It assumes that if you remain married after that, you want to be there. After that deadline, you need a standard divorce to end the marriage.

The statute of limitations applies to:

  • Incapacitation, where a spouse can file for annulment within four years of regaining their faculties.
  • Marriage of a minor, where a spouse can annul the marriage within four years of turning 18. (This means they can file by the time they are 23.)
  • Coercion or fraud. A court may allow more time in these instances. It may take longer than four years for someone to be safe enough to end the marriage.

Whether you need an annulment or a standard divorce, our firm is here to help. For a free consultation, call (951) 779-1610 today, or contact us online.