An annulment of Marriage does not have the same effects as a divorce; since an annulment is the virtual wiping away of a marriage from history. After an annulment, it is as if the marriage never occurred in the court’s eyes. You will no longer have the presumption of paternity over children conceived during the marriage or have the right to demand child support from a spouse.
Let’s say you’ve only been married a few weeks. And now all you want is to get it annulled. For starters, an annulment is not based on how long you have been married. Even if you’ve only been married a few weeks or months, you may not be able to prove to a judge that your specific case involves a valid legal reason that makes the marriage invalid. The courts may find a marriage invalid for a variety of reasons, including:
- The marriage is incestuous because the people are related by blood.
- The marriage is bigamous because one spouse is already married to someone else.
- At the time of the marriage, one party was under the age of 18 (the legal age of consent varies by state)
- One party was legally married to someone else, but the partner was absent for 5 or more years and the party didn’t know if their spouse was dead or alive, but generally, the absent spouse was thought to be dead. This is different than bigamy.
- One of the parties was “of unsound mind” or could not understand the nature of the marriage, and this includes the marital obligations involved.
- Either party got married as a result of fraud, a fraud that is vital to the relationship. (i.e. marriage for a green card, lying about ability to have children)
- Either party was forced to get married.
- One of the spouses is physically incapable of having sexual relations and this incapacity continues and appears that it cannot be cured.
Getting an annulment does not depend on how long you have been married or in a domestic partnership. Even if you have been married/in a partnership only a very short time, you may not be able to prove to the judge that your case posesses 1 of the legal reasons that makes your marriage/partnership invalid.
It’s critical to understand that in California, there’s a deadline (known in legal terminology as a “statute of limitations”) which sets a time limit on when annulments can be filed. The deadline depends on the reason why you want the annulment.
Proving that there is a legally valid reason to get an annulment can be very difficult. Talk to a lawyer for help understanding exactly what you need to show to a judge before he or she will agree to give you an annulment.
Rights and obligations relating to property and debt
When you claim that a marriage or domestic partnership is not legally valid, you are also saying that the legal rights and duties of community property laws in California do not apply. This means that you and the other party cannot rely on community property laws to divide any property or debt that you accumulated while you were married or in a domestic partnership.
It also means that you would not have the right to spousal or partner support, or other benefits like the right to a portion of the other person’s pension or retirement benefits.
There is an exception: Someone in an invalid marriage or domestic partnership may have “putative” spouse or domestic partner status. This means that they may have the right to community property, support, and other property-related benefits. To prove you have “putative” spouse or partner status can be complicated. You will have to prove that you had a good faith belief that the marriage or domestic partnership was legal under California law. Talk to a lawyer if this is your situation.
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