Unlike divorce, the grounds for obtaining an ANNULMENT are restricted to a narrow set of circumstances and each has its own statute of limitations. When a court annuls a marriage or domestic partnership it’s as if the marriage or partnership never existed. In cases of incest (close blood relations) or bigamy, there is no legal validity to the marriage or domestic partnership. A court may also annul a marriage or domestic partnership under the following circumstances:
- When one of the parties was under 18 at the time of marriage.
- One party was already legally married, but 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. And it turns out the former spouse is still alive. This is a different circumstance than the outright bigamy situation noted above.
- One party was of “unsound mind,” and thus unable to understand the nature of the contract or its obligations.
- As the result of fraud, the deceived party was directly induced to marry. For example, the deceiving party married only to obtain a green card; or one party intentionally hid the inability to have children.
- One party was coerced or forced into marriage.
- One party was physically incapable of “consummating” the relationship and the incapacity continues and appears to be “incurable.”
Although there are some limited exceptions, an annulment means that California’s community property and spousal support laws do not apply.
If there are children involved, then the legal presumption of paternity does not apply once the marriage is annulled. In other words, the legal presumption that the husband is the father of children born during a marriage does not apply once a marriage is annulled. Paternity must be established independently before a judge can rule on issues of child custody or child support.
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