Annulment of Marriage in California

Annulment of Marriage in California - Stockton Family Law Attorney

When you want to dissolve your marriage, you have two options: Divorce and annulment of marriage in California.

Most people aren’t eligible for an annulment, so they opt for divorce. However, some people are eligible – and the process for ending a marriage through annulment is far different than it is to end it with divorce. If you think you may need to end your marriage this way, it may make sense for you to talk to a Stockton divorce attorney who understands the law and how an annulment will affect you.

What is Annulment of Marriage in California?

Annulment of marriage (also called a nullity of marriage or nullity of domestic partnership) occurs when a court says that your marriage or partnership is not legally valid.

If the court grants you an annulment, you were never married – at least in a legal sense.

Legal Reasons for Annulment of Marriage

A marriage cannot be legally valid at any time if the relationship is incestuous or bigamous. A marriage can be declared invalid for several other reasons, but if incest or bigamy is present, the marriage is never legally valid in the first place.

Incestuous Relationships

Marriages can be annulled when the relationship is incestuous. That can only happen when the married couple are also close blood relatives.

Bigamous Relationships

If one party is already married to someone else, the second (or subsequent) marriage is invalid. The first marriage on the books is the one that “counts,” and the person with more than one spouse is considered a bigamist. That means he or she is married to more than one person. Bigamy is also against the law in the state of California.

Other Reasons You May Be Able to Annul a Marriage

Annulment of Marriage in California - Stockton Family Law AttorneysUnder California law, the courts can declare some marriages invalid. However, you’ll have to prove in court that these conditions for annulment are present. You must also file within the statute of limitations. You must file before that deadline runs out, or you’ll be unable to file for an annulment and must file for divorce instead.

Age at the Time of Marriage

If the party who is filing for annulment was under the age of 18 when the marriage occurred, the courts can declare the marriage invalid. People under 18 can’t legally enter a contract, and that’s what marriage is under California law.

Statute of limitations: Within 4 years of reaching the age of 18.

Prior Existing Marriage

Prior existing marriage isn’t the same as bigamy, because with a prior existing marriage, the original spouse has been absent for at least 5 years and is not known to be living. If one party was married to someone, and that person disappeared and was thought to be dead, that party can remarry. However, if the original spouse resurfaces (and isn’t dead!), you have a prior existing marriage on your hands – and your current marriage may be declared invalid.

Statute of limitations: None, as long as both parties of the current marriage are still alive.

Unsound Mind

If one or both parties was of “unsound mind” or couldn’t understand the nature of the marriage, a judge could grant you an annulment on those grounds.

Statute of limitations: None, as long as it happens before the death of either party.


When one party gets married as the result of fraud, a court may declare it invalid. For example, if a person concealed his or her inability to have children to deceive the person he or she was marrying, the marriage could be annulled. (The fraud may pertain to anything that directly affected why the deceived party agreed to the marriage.)

If someone entered the marriage for the purpose of committing fraud (such as only getting married to get a green card), the court could also declare the relationship invalid.

Statute of limitations: Within 4 years of discovering the fraud.


When one party is forced into getting married, the courts may consider the relationship invalid.

Statute of limitations: Within 4 years of getting married.

Physical Incapacity

If one partner was physically incapacitated at the time of the marriage and remains incapacitated, and the incapacitated partner is “incurable,” the marriage may be eligible for annulment. (In this case, physically incapacitated means the person was incapable of consummating the relationship.)

Statute of limitations: Within 4 years of getting married.

Why Would You Want an Annulment?

An annulment completely dissolves your marriage. In fact, the court will declare that your marriage never existed in the first place.

That means several aspects of the marriage are treated differently than they would be with divorce, including:

  • Division of property. You can’t have community property or debt if you didn’t have a marriage in the first place.
  • Spousal support and benefits. If you were never married, you are not entitled to spousal support, pension benefits, or other financial benefits.
  • The legal presumption that your shared children actually belong to both of you doesn’t exist as it would if you were legally married. That means you have to ask the court to establish paternity for your shared children so that the court can put custody and child support orders in place.

There are some exceptions to these rules, though, so it’s best to talk to your attorney about what you may be entitled to receive.

Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About Annulment in Stockton?

If you’re considering filing for an annulment, you’ll probably need to talk to an experienced Stockton family attorney as soon as possible.

Call us at 209-910-9865 or get in touch with us online for an annulment case evaluation. We’ll talk about your situation and start developing a strategy that gets you—and your kids—the best possible outcome.