Although the end of most marriages is through a divorce, there are some unions that may be or will be ended through an annulment. An annulment returns the couple to the status of unmarried persons. In California, you may be able to file the paperwork and go through the process of annulling your marriage without having to hire an attorney, unless your case is in some way complicated. Read on to learn more about getting a marriage annulled in California.

Grounds for Getting a Marriage Annulled in California

There are several grounds for getting a marriage annulled in California. These grounds are listed in the California statute and include:

  • One or both of the spouses did not have capacity – for example if under the age of 18 years;

  • One or both of the spouses was not of sound mind at the time of the wedding;

  • The marriage was entered into as a product of fraud;

  • The marriage was obtained by force;

  • One or both of the spouses were, at the time of marriage, physically incapable of entering into the marriage;

  • Bigamy; and

  • Incest.

These grounds for getting a marriage annulled in California may be divided into two categories: void from the start of the marriage and voidable at the election of the couple involved. Cases of bigamy (except for a few exceptions) and incest are automatically void under the law. All the other grounds are considered voidable depending on the parties conduct after the marriage and the time afterwards.

There are statutes of limitations on filing for an annulment on the voidable grounds. These time limits have to be carefully followed or else an annulment may not be granted. They are as follows:

  • For a marriage in which one or both the parties are underage, it may be voidable unless the couple act as a married couple for four years after the age of maturity is reached;

  • For bigamy, either spouse can file for an annulment while the spouse from the first marriage is alive;

  • For a marriage based on unsound mind, an annulment may be filed before you or your spouse dies; and

  • For fraud, force, and physical incapacity, filing has to be within four years of the discovery of the fraud.

Filing for a California Annulment

To file for an annulment in California, you have to start by filling out the appropriate forms. Along with these forms, you have to prepare a document explaining why the court should grant the annulment. The person seeking the annulment bears the burden of proof as to the allegations forming the basis for the petition. You must then file the forms with the court clerk and pay the appropriate filing fee.

After the initial filing, you have to serve your spouse or domestic partner with the filed paperwork and a few other documents. Service may be through personal service or by mail. You have to have proof of service for the court. Finally, you must seek a court hearing to finalize the annulment.

Handling Property and Children In an Annulment

Even if getting a marriage annulled in California is successful, sometimes the court may deem one of the spouses a “putative spouse.” This allows the court to award alimony or to divide any marital property among the parties even though technically the result of an annulment is that the marriage never existed in the first place. This also allows the court to deal with issues of custody.

If you choose to go ahead with an application for annulment without an attorney, and would like help with filling out the forms,  please contact A People’s Choice for reasonably priced non-attorney help.

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