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Annulment vs. Divorce in California

I’ve heard of an annulment when it comes to marriage. What’s the difference between an annulment and a divorce?

This is a great question, because annulments in California are very different from divorces. In a divorce, there is no question or denial about the fact that both parties were legally married. If you file for divorce, you’re simply looking to dissolve the marriage and move on with your life.

An annulment in California is based upon contesting the actual legality and validity of the marriage itself, with a goal of erasing the marriage from your past. An annulment (also knowns as a “judgment of nullity”) results from either a void or a voidable marriage. Think of a void marriage as one that was never legal or proper. It doesn’t matter if one or both parties file for an annulment. A voidable marriage one that is legal until there is an annulment filed.

Even though a void marriage was never considered legal, it’s not good to assume it will be problem-free moving forward. This is important because there are situations where a spouse in a void marriage could claim property rights or request support. If there are children involved, additional complexity can arise.

A few void or voidable scenarios in California marriages: Bigamy (one person was already legally married), fraud, unsound mind (i.e. both parties were intoxicated while in Vegas and decided to do the drive-thru wedding), and minority (the party filing for an annulment was under 18 years of age at the time of the marriage).

It is always best to consult with an experienced family law attorney to decide how to proceed forward if any of the above (or other unique questionable situations) apply to you.

Learn about the steps you'll take during separation and avoid mistakes along the way. Be better prepared to start (or finish) your divorce with tailored info from attorney, Cristin Lowe.

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