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Annulment of a Marriage: Dispelling Common Misconceptions

Posted by attorney Paul Ryan

Annulment of a marriage is an option available to married couples that exists as a legal procedure and acts as a process that essentially labels a marriage as void. The procedure allows for a marriage to be dissolved as if it never took place. It is important to note that an annulment is a judicial decree that outlines a marriage was null and void at the beginning of the intended union as opposed to a divorce, which is a legal proceeding that terminates a valid marriage. In layman’s terms, an annulment is the “undoing" of a marriage. In the event of an annulment property shared between spouses will not be divided not will alimony or child support be paid to either party. Some may find that it is quite satisfying that an annulment does not require or entail a waiting period for the initiation or implementation of the proceeding -- unlike in the case of a divorce, where California state law requires a six (6) month waiting period before a divorce can be declared final.

Under California Family Law Code, Section 300"marriage" is defined as 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." [Ca Fam § 300] But the parties' permission does not alone comprise a marriage. To authenticate the marriage, the consent must be followed by issuance of a license (Ca Fam § 350 et seq.), solemnization (Ca Fam § 400 et seq.) and authentication (Ca Fam §§ 422-425); and the "certificate of registry of marriage shall be returned".

The Facts

It is a common misconception that annulments are applicable only in the event a marriage has endured a specific duration of time. The reality is that duration is not a determining factor in terms of gauging and proceeding with the option of annulment of a marriage.

The most common reason for the initiation of an annulment is fraud. Instances of fraud include not only financial deception but also instances where a party deceives the other by marrying solely for purposes of being granted residency in theUnited States. There are annulment cases in which one party did not disclose an addiction to a controlled substance or drug before initiating marriage.

If you are considering an annulment, you should speak to an experienced family law attorney.

Additional resources provided by the author

San Diego Superior Court Website, Divorce & Paternity section.

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