In California, either party may ask the court to annul a marriage. When a marriage is annulled, it is as if the parties were never legally married. Technically, there is no community property, no community debt, and no spousal support. However, if you read below about putative spouses, there are ways in which those things can be achieved. Annulments are different than legal separations or a divorce in that the parties cannot agree that their marriage is void and subject to an annulment. With both a legal separation and a divorce the parties can agree in writing to obtain a legal separation or a divorce. With an annulment, however, the parties must prove to the judge that there is a basis for the annulment. If they cannot prove that they meet one of the criteria for the annulment to the judge, then the parties do not qualify for a legal annulment and must proceed with a legal separation or a divorce.

California Family Code sections 2200 through 2255 provides the grounds for an annulment. An annulment may be granted for a marriage that is void or voidable.

A void marriage is defined by sections 2200 and 2201. It is basically a marriage between relatives or when someone has been previously married without a divorce or death of the first spouse.

A voidable marriage is defined by Family Code section 2210. A marriage is voidable under the following circumstances:

  • if one spouse entered into the marriage under the age of 18 and was not emancipated or whose parent did nto consent to the marriage,

  • If one spouse believed their previous spouse was dead,

  • If either party is of unsound mind,

  • If consent to marry was obtained by fraud, or

  • If either party was physically incapable of entering into the marriage state.

Very few people can prove that their marriage is void especially if the grounds are fraud. Many fraudulent acts are not considered valid reasons for granting an annulment. The most common one is if one person lied about his or her financial affairs to induce the other to marry. The court will not view that as sufficient fraud to annul the marriage.

If the court annuls a marriage, a court may find that one spouse qualifies as a putative spouse. A putative spouse is a person that enters into a marriage in good faith believing that a valid marriage existed. If the court annuls a marriage but finds the one spouse did not realize that the marriage was voidable,the court can find that a putative spouse exists. In that circumstance, there is the creation of quasi-community property and the putative spouse is entitled to spousal support.

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