An annulment (or “nullity of marriage” or “nullity of domestic partnership”) is when a court says your marriage or domestic partnership is NOT legally valid. After an annulment, it is like your marriage or domestic partnership never happened because it was never legal.
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A marriage is NEVER legally valid when it is:
Other marriages and partnerships can be declared invalid because of:
These are short explanations of the reasons for an annulment. Each of these reasons has important details you have to prove to get a court to give you an annulment.
To get an annulment, you must be able to prove to the judge that 1 of these reasons is true in your case. This makes an annulment case very different from a divorce or a legal separation. For example, “irreconcilable differences” are not a reason for getting an annulment.
Getting an annulment does not depend on how long you have been married or in a domestic partnership. Even if you have been married/in a partnership only a very short time, you may not be able to prove to the judge that your case has 1 of the legal reasons that makes your marriage/partnership invalid.
Proving that there is a legally valid reason to get an annulment can be very difficult. Talk to a lawyer for help understanding exactly what you need to show to a judge before he or she will agree to give you an annulment. Click for help finding a lawyer.
The statute of limitations is the deadline for filing a lawsuit. Divorces and legal separations do not have a deadline. You can file for divorce or legal separation at any time.BUT annulments DO have a deadline. In general, once the statute of limitations “runs out,” you can no longer file for an annulment.
The period of time within which you can file for an annulment varies depending on the reason why you want the annulment. Here are the statutes of limitations for the reasons to ask for an annulment:
Since an annulment means your marriage or domestic partnership was never valid, you may not have other rights and obligations that couples who file for divorce or legal separation do.
Rights and obligations relating to the children
If you and your spouse or domestic partner have children together and you get an annulment, the legal presumption that children born during a marriage or domestic partnership are children of the couple also does not exist. This means that, if you get an annulment, you must also ask the judge to establish parentage (paternity) for any children you have in common with the other party. Talk to a lawyer about how to do this. Click for help finding a lawyer. The family law facilitator or self-help center may also be able to give you some information.
Once the parentage is established, then you can, in your annulment, ask the judge to make orders about:
Rights and obligations relating to property and debt
When you claim that a marriage or domestic partnership is not legally valid, you are also saying that the legal rights and duties of community property laws in California do not apply. This means that you and the other party cannot rely on community property laws to divide any property or debt that you accumulated while you were married or in a domestic partnership.
It also means that you would not have the right to spousal or partner support, or other benefits like the right to a portion of the other person’s pension or retirement benefits.
BUT there is an exception: Someone in an invalid marriage or domestic partnership may have “putative” spouse or domestic partner status. This means that they may have the right to community property, support, and other property-related benefits. To prove you have “putative” spouse or partner status can be complicated. You will have to prove that you had a good faith belief that the marriage or domestic partnership was legal under California law. Talk to a lawyer if this is your situation. Click for help finding a lawyer.