If your marriage falls into the category of “void or voidable,” you may choose to go through a marriage annulment rather than a divorce. While a divorce will actually dissolve a marriage, an annulment will show marital status never existed in the first place. This option tends to be more popular in religious families that do not condone divorce. Due to the legal complexities of annulment, it is advisable to speak with an experienced San Diego divorce attorney if you have any questions about the legal status of your marriage.
In California law, a marriage is a “personal relation arising out of a civil contract between a man and a woman, to which the consent of the parties capable of making that contract is necessary.”; This consent must also be followed by the issuance of a license, solemnization and authentication. A marriage is deemed “void” if it was never valid from the start. It may be deemed “voidable” if it was incestuous, bigamous, created by force or fraud or if either person was under the legal age of consent or of unsound mind. In order to nullify a marriage, the parties must act within 4 years of the discovery of the voidability of the marriage or it will become valid and thus, nonvoidable. When it comes to the matter of fraud, the lies must be considered vital to the essence of the marital relationship. If someone hides their alcoholism, bad manners or low financial status prior to the marriage, these activities will not be seen as fraud. On the other hand, the concealment of a person’s sterility, refusal to consummate the marriage, drastically false representations and “visa marriages” would all be enough to nullify a marriage.
When a marriage is annulled, the partners are generally not subject to division of property and spousal support obligations that occur in the average divorce. The exception is when one person has “punitive” spousal status, in this case, they may be entitled to all rights of a person going through a divorce. This person also must have a “good faith belief” that the marriage was legally valid. If you believe your marriage may be void or voidable and would like to seek an annulment, contact us to speak with a skilled San Diego divorce lawyer about your circumstances.