Eligible for an Annulment?

*****Disclaimer: This is not legal advice and is for educational purposes only. This does not create an attorney-client privilege.

The short answer; most likely no. An annulment is a legal means to declare a marriage null. An annulment is distinct from a normal divorce, because whereas a divorce brings a legal marriage to an end, an annulment is granted when the marriage itself is determined invalid/illegal and becomes void. For a marriage to be granted an annulment, there needs to be certain circumstances and those grounds for annulment need to have been present at the time the marriage took place. We will explain this further below.

Annulment is a legal concept that often gets misunderstood, which is in large part due to popular culture and religion presenting differing and often inaccurate views of what an annulment is in terms of family law. This article focuses on "civil annulments," not "religious annulments," which can be granted only by a church or clergy member.

For a civil annulment, there are a variety of factors that would necessitate an annulment. Though if you are coming to this blog asking yourself the titular question, the answer is no unless one of the following criteria apply (in CA);

The first would be in cases of incest. If the married parties are related by blood, the marriage can and should be made void.

The next would be bigamy or even polygamy. This means that one of the parties tries to get married again without ever legally divorcing their previous spouse. This is actually more common than you might think. While there are cases of people intentionally marrying multiple people, it is often by mistake or a misunderstanding of the necessary steps. For example, if you have a shotgun wedding in a different state and then separate after and lose track of your ‘spouse”, then try years later to remarry, you will find that original marriage haunting you.

You would not be able to annul the original marriage, though you could potentially get a default divorce if you file for it and cant locate the other party. You would however have to annul the second marriage if you went through with it. The reason you can just pick which to annul is because the grounds for annulment had to be present at the time of marriage. So in this instance, it wasn't bigamy at the time of the first marriage but it was obviously at the time of the second.

The next reason for an annulment could be that one of the parties was not 18 at the time of the marriage. If you are underage, you cannot legally marry in the state of California. There is a way to get around this though if the underage party got parental consent in the form of a court order. This would require a juvenile marriage license application, prior to the wedding not after.

“Incurable physical incapacity” can also be a reason for annulment. This generally means the man is impotent and unable to have sexual relations. However it can apply if either spouse has a physical limitation that prevents them from ‘fruitful sex or child-rearing’. This can actually dip into the “lack of consummation” as a reason; because whether it is physical inability or just an adamant refusal to consummate the marriage with sexual intercourse, this can also be pertinent. This reasoning is less black and white than those above and is more grounds to petition for annulment.

Another legitimate reason for an annulment would be if either party was of unsound mind at the time of marriage. If either or both parties had some kind of mental limitation that prevented them from understanding the serious and binding nature of the marriage they were entering or from consenting to it, either spouse may petition for an annulment. So if you got married in Vegas while blackout drunk, this may be the best bet for you! All jokes aside though, this is one of the most commonly cited reasons for annulments from spouses too intoxicated to understand what they were getting into.

Fraud can also be a reason to annul a marriage. If either party had fraudulent intent, they can petition for a marriage. One example of this could be a “green-card” marriage. If one party isn't a citizen and gets married just for the purpose of obtaining citizenship, this could be grounds for annulment. Please note that for annulment, the fraud would have to “go to the essence” of the marriage. It is not enough for a party to engage in fraudulent activity individually and unrelated to the marriage itself.

Finally, force and coercion are also grounds for an annulment. If the marriage took place against the will of one or both parties, the court may be petitioned to annul the marriage.

All of the grounds listed above are fairly rare and extreme, which is why annulments are so uncommon in California. For the most part, if you get married it will only be divorce proceedings that can end it. While that may be a costly, time intensive and emotionally draining concept, our team here at Rodriguez Law Group, Inc. can make it all the easier.

Sources: (image)