California Annulment of Marriage Rules : Can You File For An Annulment?

California Annulment of Marriage Rules : Can You File For An Annulment?

Today we are talking about Annulments in California also known as Nullity of a marriage in California. We get calls asking about the process for annulments pretty often. However, there is a big myth when it comes to the rules and guidelines one must meet in order to qualify for an annulment.

Length Of Marriage Does Not Matter With California Annulments or Nullities

The biggest myth, or should I say the only myth when it comes to annulments in California is that of the duration of the marriage. Many people believe that they can get an annulment if they were married for a very short time.

This is a myth about annulments that we get from T.V. I can think of one movie in particular, The Hangover, where Doug get’s married and does not remember because they had taken drugs. The next morning they go back to the wedding chapel and ask if they do annulments because they got married last night. ( I will come back to this, because it brings up an actual reason for a nullity)

6 Ways To Qualify For A Nullity of Marriage in California

There are only 6 reasons that you can qualify to have your marriage annulled

There are only 6 reasons you can claim to ask the court to annul your marriage. We are going to be talking about nullity based upon a Voidable Marriage. You see, that is what is happening with a nullity is that you are nullifying or voiding the marriage based on one of 6 reasons.

  1. Petitioner’s age at time of registration of domestic partnership or marriage – the party filing for the annulment was under 18 years old at the time of the marriage or domestic partnership.
  2. Prior existing marriage or domestic partnership – Either party was already legally married or in a registered domestic partnership. This is different from bigamy (which is automatically illegal) because, in this case, the marriage or domestic partnership took place after the former spouse or domestic partner was absent for 5 years and not known to be living or generally thought to be dead.
  3. Unsound Mind – either party was of “unsound mind” or unable to understand the nature of the marriage or domestic partnership, including the obligations that come with it.
  4. Fraud – Either party got married or registered the domestic partnership as a result of fraud. The fraud must have been about something vital to the relationship that directly affected why the party who was deceived agreed to the marriage or domestic partnership. Some examples are marrying only to get a green card or hiding the inability to have children.
  5. Force – either party consented to getting married or filing a domestic partnership as a result of force.
  6. Physical Incapacity – the parties got married or registered a domestic partnership while 1 of them was “physically incapacitated” (basically, it means that 1 of the spouses or partners was physically incapable of “consummating” the relationship) and the incapacity continues and appears to be “incurable.”

So as you can see, the reasons to qualify for a nullity are pretty stiff and time or duration of the marriage is not one of them. In all my time I have completed thousands of divorce cases, and only 3 nullities. Two of them were for prior existing marriages. Meaning, when they got married, one of them was still currently married.

These types of cases are pretty easy to prove. They were previously married and cannot provide proof of a valid divorce and then go remarried. In this case the parties agreed to nullify the marriage.

In the other case of nullity that I handled, the parties got married after a week of drinking and doing drugs and neither party realized what they had done. This was a case where the nullity of their marriage was approved by the court.

Nullities must be approved/ ordered by the court

When you file for a nullity of your marriage, the process is much different than with divorce. You see, with a divorce, you do not have to have a reason and it is just called irreconcilable differences. With nullity you need to prove one of the 6 reasons to the court and they have to agree with your rationale.

Procedurally, this means that on top of filing for a nullity, you also have to file a Request For Order and have a hearing set for the court to hear your evidence as to why a nullity should be granted.

Now back to my example about the movie The Hangover. While they could not get a nullity based on the short term duration of the marriage (at least not in California – Perhaps in Las Vegas), they could try based upon “unsound mind”.

Personally, I think that it should be easy to nullify your marriage in California. People do make mistakes. In fact, I got a call last week and the wife was asking about nullities and I had to break the above news to her. They had only been married for 4 days and both the husband and wife realized that it was a mistake.

Unfortunately, this will just have to be one of life’s learning lessons and will simply have to get divorced. The only real issues is that these people were very young, in their early twenties, and from now on, whenever asked, will have to indicate they are divorced instead of single.

That is until they get married again.