The termination or dissolution of a marriage is not always a divorce; it may legally qualify as a different kind of legal action, known generally as an annulment, or in more recent terminology, a “nullity of marriage.” What is the difference between a divorce and an annulment, or nullity? There are several distinctions, under California law.
Essentially, a marriage is annulled for one of several reasons. The old, “traditional” and informal assumption for annulment is that the marriage was made in haste and not yet consummated. However, in 21st-century California, the legally valid reason for which the court may grant an annulment is most likely quite serious. For example:
- The marriage is incestuous
- the marriage is bigamous (one or both spouses is currently married to others)
- One or both spouses is underage (in California, the age of consent is 18, however, there is no age limitation to marriage with parental consent)
- One or both spouses was not mentally competent or have the capacity to understand their actions at the time of the marriage
- The marriage was a direct result of duress (force or threat), or of fraud
- One or both spouses was of unsound mind, did not have the capacity to understand that they were getting married or that they were induced into marriage
Along with the proper paperwork and serving the parties concerned with the correct legal summons, in some California jurisdictions you may have to appear in court at a hearing, or even a trial. Finally, if the court finds that your reason for requesting a nullity of marriage is not valid, you may then need to start again and file for divorce instead. California is a no-fault divorce state, so there is no need to show that either party to a divorce did wrong or caused harm. So whatever reasons you may have for wanting your marriage terminated, they differ from annulment as far as California courts are concerned.
Of course, the realities of any legal proceeding are more complex, and often more unexpected, than what appears in the overview here. If you believe you may qualify for a nullity of marriage, or simply would like more information about annulments, divorce, or any other aspect of family law in California, please contact an experienced attorney at Dinnebier & Demmerle. We’ll listen to all your concerns, establish your legal rights and options, and work with you to achieve the best possible outcome, in court and overall. To schedule a consultation, call us in Tustin, in Orange County, at 714-598-3714.