Although most marriages end through divorce, there are some couples that may end their relationship through an annulment. Unlike divorce, an annulment returns the couple to the status of unmarried persons. In California, you may be able to file the paperwork to annul your marriage without hiring an attorney. Read on to learn how to get an annulment in California and determine whether it’s right for you.

Grounds for Annulment in California

There are several grounds listed in the California statute for annulment, including:

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

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

  • The spouses entered the marriage 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;

  • Bigamy; and

  • Incest

These grounds for annulment can be divided into two categories: void from the start of the marriage and voidable at the couple’s election. For example, cases of bigamy (except for a few exceptions) and incest are automatically void under the law. Other grounds are considered voidable depending on the parties’ conduct after the marriage.

Statutes of Limitations

There are statutes of limitations on filing for an annulment on the voidable grounds. Parties must carefully follow these time limits in order to obtain an annulment:

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

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

  • For a marriage based on unsound mind, one spouse may file for an annulment before they or the other spouse dies; and

  • For fraud, force, and physical incapacity, parties must file within four years of the discovery of fraud.

How to File 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.  Note that the person seeking the annulment bears the burden of proof as to the allegations forming the basis for the petition. Then, after completing the legal documentation, you must file the forms with the court clerk and pay the appropriate filing fee.

Next, you have to serve your spouse or domestic partner with the filed paperwork and a few other documents. Service may be in person or by mail. Finally, you have to provide the court with proof of service and seek a court hearing to finalize the annulment.

Handling Property and Children in an Annulment

Even if you successfully get your marriage annulled, sometimes the court may deem one of the spouses a “putative spouse”. This allows the court to award alimony, divide marital property, and deal with custody issues even though the annulment technically rules that the marriage never existed.

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

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