Filing for Annulment

Filing Your Case

If you are married, you can file your annulment in California as long as you live in California. There is no required length of time for residency like there is for a divorce. And you can file in the county where you live (again, there is no 3-month residency requirement like with a divorce). For an annulment of a domestic partnership, you do not have to live in California to file in California.

Fill Out Your Court Forms

To start an annulment case, you have to fill out the same forms as with a divorce or legal separation. Just make sure you check the boxes that apply to annulments (nullity).

It is very important that you check the correct box for the basis of your request to get an annulment. Proving the reason why you think your marriage or domestic partner is not valid can be very difficult, and you should be clear on the requirements for proving whatever reason you are basing your case on. Talk to a lawyer to make sure you qualify for an annulment.

Also, keep in mind that if you ask for an annulment only but the court does not find there is a valid reason for an annulment, you will have to file a brand-new case asking for a divorce. One way to avoid this is to check the annulment (nullity) box AND also check the dissolution (divorce) box and write “in the alternative” near the divorce box. That way, if the court finds that you did not prove a valid reason for an annulment, you can still move forward with a divorce under the same case.

The information on this website is very basic and does not deal with the specific situation in your case. Every case is different and that is especially true for annulments because the details and circumstances related to the reasons why you entered into the marriage or domestic partnership are key to asking a court to annul your marriage or domestic partnership.

If you want specific legal advice about how to fill out your forms, talk to a lawyer. Click for help finding a lawyer.

For people who are married

  1. Fill out your court forms
    Fill out these forms (since you are starting this case, you are the petitioner):

    • Petition — Marriage (Family Law) (Form FL-100 | video instructions ).  On this form, you give the court some basic information about your marriage and the grounds for your annulment request, and you ask for the orders you want the court to make.
    • Summons (Family Law) (Form FL-110). This form contains important information for you and for your spouse about the court process. It also contains some standard restraining orders limiting what you can do with your property, money, and other assets or debts, as well as moving out of state with your children from your marriage. READ this form carefully!!

    If you have children under the age of 18 with your spouse, also fill out:

    • Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) (Form FL-105/GC-120 | video instructions ). 
    • Remember, if you are asking for an annulment and you have children together, you will have to ask the court to establish parentage/paternity of the children. Talk to a lawyer for help doing this. Click for help finding a lawyer.

  2. Write a declaration explaining why you believe the court should give you an annulment

    • You can use the Declaration (Form MC-030) and Attached Declaration (Form MC-031) to write your declaration. Keep in mind you are signing your declaration under penalty of perjury.
    • You have to clearly explain to the court what the legal reason is for asking for an annulment. The law in this area is complicated. Talk to a lawyer for help doing this. Click for help finding a lawyer.

  3. Have your forms reviewed
    If your court’s family law facilitator or self-help center helps with annulments, ask them to review your paperwork. They can make sure you filled it out properly before you move ahead with your case. Even if they do not help with annulments, they probably help with child support and spousal/partner support issues, so you can at least ask questions about those issues.

    You can also hire your own lawyer to review your papers or to get legal advice, either with your entire case, or just the parts of it that you may need more help with (called “limited scope representation” or “unbundling”). Click for help finding a lawyer. Click to learn more about “limited scope representation.”

  4. Fill out local forms, if required
    Some courts ask you to fill out local forms. Contact your court clerk’s office, check your court’s website, or talk to your family law facilitator or self-help center to ask about your court’s local forms.

  5. Make at least 2 copies of all your forms
    One copy will be for you; another copy will be for your spouse. The original is for the court.

 

For registered domestic partners

  1. Fill out your court forms
    Fill out these forms (since you are starting this case, you are the petitioner):

    • Petition — Domestic Partnership (Family Law) (Form FL-103 | video instructions ). On this form, you give the court some basic information about your domestic partnership and the grounds for your annulment request, and you ask for the orders you want the court to make.

      AND
    • Summons (Family Law) (Form FL-110 | video instructions Video Icon). This form contains important information for you and for your domestic partner about the court process. It also contains some standard restraining orders limiting what you can do with your property, money, and other assets or debts, as well as moving out of state with your children from your domestic partnership. READ this form carefully!!

    If you have children under the age of 18 with your domestic partner, also fill out:

    • Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) (Form FL-105/GC-120 | video instructions ). 
    • Remember, if you are asking for an annulment and you have children together, you will have to ask the court to establish parentage/paternity of the children. Talk to a lawyer for help doing this. Click for help finding a lawyer.

  2. Write a declaration explaining why you believe the court should give you an annulment

    • You can use the Declaration (Form MC-030) and Attached Declaration (Form MC-031) to write your declaration. Keep in mind you are signing your declaration under penalty of perjury.
    • You have to clearly explain to the court what the legal reason is for asking for an annulment. The law in this area is complicated. Talk to a lawyer for help doing this. Click for help finding a lawyer.

  3. Have your forms reviewed
    If your court’s family law facilitator or self-help center helps with annulments, ask them to review your paperwork. They can make sure you filled it out properly before you move ahead with your case. Even if they do not help with annulments, they probably help with child support and spousal/partner support issues, so you can at least ask questions about those issues.

    You can also hire your own lawyer to review your papers or to get legal advice, either with your entire case, or just the parts of it that you may need more help with (called “limited scope representation” or “unbundling”). Click for help finding a lawyer. Click to learn more about “limited scope representation.”

  4. Fill out local forms, if required
    Some courts ask you to fill out local forms. Contact your court clerk’s office, check your court’s website, or talk to your family law facilitator or self-help center to ask about your court’s local forms.

  5. Make at least 2 copies of all your forms
    One copy will be for you; another copy will be for your domestic partner. The original is for the court.

    File Your Forms With the Court Clerk

    Turn in your forms (the originals AND copies) to the court clerk. If there are no obvious errors, the clerk will take the original of each form and return the copies to you, stamped “Filed.”

    You will have to pay a filing fee. Find out how much your fee will be. Keep in mind you are filing your first papers, a petition (often called a “first appearance”). If you cannot afford the fee, you can ask for a fee waiver. Get more information on fee waivers.

    If you want the judge to make temporary orders for child or spousal support, bill payment, protection from domestic violence, or other issues, you must fill out and file other forms. Talk to your family law facilitator or self-help center to ask for help with temporary orders.

    Serve Your First Set of Court Forms

    The law says your spouse or domestic partner must be told that you have started the legal process for an annulment. To do this, you must “serve” your spouse or domestic partner with copies of all your court papers. The judge CANNOT make any orders or judgments in your annulment case until your spouse or domestic partner has been properly “served.”

    Who can serve?

    What needs to be served?

    How the papers must be served

    File your proof of service

    After you serve your forms


    Who can serve?
    To “serve” your papers, you will have to find someone 18 or older (NOT you) to deliver a copy of your papers to your spouse or domestic partner. The “server” (the person delivering your papers to your spouse/domestic partner) can be a:

    • Friend,
    • Relative,
    • County sheriff, or
    • Process server.

    If you hire a process server, try to give him or her a photo of your spouse or domestic partner and a list of times and places when it will be easy to find that person. Look for a process server close to where your spouse or domestic partner lives or works. Fees are often based on how far the server has to travel. So this will save you money.

    Service is very important so you must do it correctly. Find more information about “service."

    What needs to be served?
    Your “server” will need to serve your spouse or domestic partner with:

    • A copy of ALL the papers you filed with the court (except for any fee waiver papers you may have filed — these are confidential).
    • A blank Response — Marriage (Form FL-120 | video instructions ) if you are married, or a blank Response — Domestic Partnership (Form FL-123 | video instructions ) if you are domestic partners.
    • If you have children with your spouse or domestic partner, include a blank Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) (Form FL-105/GC-120 | video instructions ).

    How the papers must be served
    The papers can be served in 1 of 2 ways:

    • Personal service
      This means that your “server” hand-delivers a copy of all the papers (and  the blank forms) to your spouse or domestic partner. In most cases, you  will have to do personal service for your initial annulment papers.

      OR
    • Service by mail with a Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt
       If you and your spouse or domestic partner are cooperating on your family law case, and your spouse or domestic partner agrees to accept service by mail, this can be an easy and less expensive way to serve the papers.

      Someone 18 or older — NOT you — that is not involved in the case must mail copies of each of the forms you filed with  the court, the blank forms listed above, and 2 copies of the Notice and  Acknowledgment of Receipt — Family Law (Form FL-117). Find out more about service by Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt.

      Form FL-117 shows the court that your spouse or domestic partner received your forms. If your spouse or domestic partner does not sign, date, and return this form, you will have to have him or her served again by personal service.

    Note: If your spouse or domestic partner lives outside of California, you may be able to serve him or her with the Petition and Summons by certified mail, with return receipt requested.

    File your proof of service
    Once you serve your spouse or domestic partner with copies of your papers, you must show the court that you completed this step. To do this, your “server” has to fill out a proof of service form telling the judge when and how he or she served the papers on your spouse/domestic partner.

    Your server must:

    • Fill out the Proof of Service of Summons (Form FL-115). It is very important your server fills out the Proof of Service correctly. If possible, have your family law facilitator or self-help center review it to make sure it was filled out properly.
    • Give the Proof of Service to you. If your spouse/partner was served by mail and Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt, make sure your server also gives you the Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt — Family Law (Form FL-117).

    You must then file your Proof of Service (and Notice and Acknowledgement of Receipt, if there is one) with the court clerk. Make a copy of these forms so that, after the clerk files and keeps the original, you will have a copy for yourself.

    IMPORTANT! Contact a lawyer if:

    • You do not know where your spouse or domestic partner is;
    • Your spouse or domestic partner is in the military, in jail, or living out of state; or
    • You are having a difficult time serving the forms.

    In some local courts the family law facilitator or self-help center can help you with these problems. Click for help finding a lawyer.

    After you serve your forms

    • Wait 30 days for the other party to respond
      Your spouse or domestic partner (the respondent) has 30 days from the date he or she was served with the petition to file a response with the court. Depending on whether the respondent responds within those 30 days or not, your next steps will vary. Read the explanation of your options under Completing your Divorce or Legal Separation.

    Ask for a Court Hearing and Next Steps

    In order to ask for an annulment of your marriage or domestic partnership, you will have to set up a court hearing and appear in front of a judge. You will have to explain to the judge why you believe an annulment is appropriate. The other party will have the right to come to this court hearing and oppose your request.

    Ask a lawyer how you should set up this court hearing and how to prepare for it.

    A lawyer can also help you figure out how to deal with other issues in your case, like support, property division, and custody and visitation of your children if you have any.

    Click for help finding a lawyer.

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