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How Do California Courts Handle Child Custody in a Marriage Annulment?

When a marriage comes to an end, child custody can become a major issue that couples must address. Child custody is a natural, routine part of divorce. However, it becomes more complicated in an annulment.

In this article, we will broadly explain what annulment is, how it works, and the impact it can have on child custody decisions.

Overview of California Family Law Regarding Annulment

Essentially, an annulment invalidates the marriage. Legally, it treats the marriage as if it never happened. This is very different from a divorce, which is the legal dissolution of a marriage. Divorce acknowledges that the marriage occurred, lasted for a time, then ended. Annulment wipes the marriage from your record.

In a California divorce, you can end the marriage for virtually any reason. Annulment, however, must meet certain conditions, such as:

  • The spouses are closely related.
  • One spouse was already legally married.
  • One spouse could not consent to the marriage.
  • The marriage was induced by fraud, coercion, or force.
  • One spouse was underage at the time of the ceremony.

Child Considerations in an Annulment Case

Ultimately, an annulment treats both spouses as if they are single and always were. Therefore, courts should approach child custody the same way it would between any parents who aren’t married or in a relationship with each other.

However, annulments are often the result of insidious behavior. If one spouse coerced or lied to the other to secure the marriage, the court will consider this as part of its custody decision. It may believe that one parent has poor character and is therefore not a good candidate for custody.

Ultimately, in any custody decision, the court wants what is best for the child.

The Best Interests of the Child Standard in California Child Custody Cases

For California courts, the main priority is the best interests of the child. Parents may have their wants and needs, but ultimately, the child’s welfare matters most.

This means that when making a decision, the court will consider various factors, such as:

  • The child's health
  • Educational concerns
  • Each parent’s lifestyle
  • Each parent’s outside support system
  • Healthcare concerns for both parents and children
  • Each parent’s ability to provide for the child's needs
  • The relationship between the child and each parent
  • The child’s safety and overall well-being with each parent
  • The child's preferences (if they are mature enough to express them)

Alternatives to Traditional Physical Custody in California

Family law has come a long way over the years, and so have parents’ child custody options. Physical custody was once the primary arrangement, but now there are several alternatives available.

These alternatives include, but are not limited to:

  • Joint custody
  • Shared custody
    Joint and shared custody arrangements allow both parents to have significant involvement in their child's life.
  • Bird's nest custody
    This keeps the children in one home, and the parents alternate living with them.

Legal custody involves the right to make important decisions about the child's life. This includes decisions related to education, healthcare, religion, and other significant aspects of the child's upbringing. You can have legal custody without physical custody, and vice versa.

There are plenty of combinations where parents can have sole custody, physical custody, legal custody, joint custody, or specified blends of each.

Whatever your situation, Singleton Smith Law Offices, Inc. can help with your child custody issues. If you need someone by your side, reach out to us today. You can contact us online or by phone at (951) 779-1610.