California Family Law 101: Understanding Annulment as an Alternative to Divorce


For some couples, an annulment might be a better option than a divorce. For some couples, it may have been because of inherent illegality to the marriage itself. No matter what your situation, if you qualify, an annulment will legally indicate that your marriage was not valid — that it never existed legally. So, how and when can annulment be an alternative to divorce?

Who Can File for an Annulment?

In California, there are a couple of instances where state law automatically establishes marriage as invalid. Your marriage can be annulled if:

  1. It is bigamous. Bigamous unions where a man or a woman has more than one spouse are illegal. By law, these kinds of marriages are void.
  2. It is incestuous. Simply put, you cannot marry your sibling or cousin. If you and your spouse discover that you are related, state law prohibits the union.

There are other grounds for annulment. In these cases, the petitioner has the burden of proof. This means that if you petition for annulment under any of the grounds listed below, it will be your responsibility to prove your case to the court.

  1. You or your spouse were under 18 at the time of the marriage. If you’re going to file for annulment because you were under 18 when you got married, you must file within four years after you turn 18.
  2. Your spouse forced or coerced you into marriage. This can be tricky to prove, so please consult with us if you suspect this was the case with your marriage.
  3. The marriage resulted from fraud. This could fraud could be for immigration reasons (like a marriage arranged so that one of the parties could get a green card). It could also be something more malicious like if someone lied and told you they were pregnant in order to force a marriage.
  4. You or your spouse were of unsound mind at the time of the union.
  5. You or your spouse have an incurable physical incapacity.

Why File for an Annulment?

There are some distinct advantages to annulment. If your marriage is annulled, there’s no decision about the proper division of property, liability, and debt. Instead, any assets or debts that are accumulated throughout the time of the marriage are evenly divided. Also, any assets or debts that each individual had before the marriage will become that individual’s sole responsibility.

Another advantage to an annulment is that prenuptial agreements become invalid. If there were items in the prenup that was not to your advantage, they become invalid.

How Do I File for an Annulment in California?

If you’re thinking of filing for an annulment in California, we can help. Let our experts help you decide if you’re eligible for and can benefit from an annulment. We strive to help you find peace of mind. Contact us today.