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.
If you have children under the age of 18 with your spouse or domestic partner, also fill out:
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?
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:
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:
How the papers must be served
The papers can be served in 1 of 2 ways:
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:
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:
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.