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As Though It Never Happened

Posted by Mattis Law, A.P.C. in Divorce

It’s not uncommon these days to visit your favorite news site, and, after a dose of the increasingly commonplace gloom-and-doom current events, scroll down for some lighter fare in the celebrity gossip section.

Occasionally, we may happen across the latest break-up buzz that includes the divorce of a popular couple. Divorce is a concept that is familiar in American society, and is something most of us have personal experience with. But rarely, we stumble upon another form of separation: annulment. For example, actress Renee Zellweger and country music star Kenny Chesney received an annulment after four months of marriage. What is the difference?

Whereas divorce acknowledges that a couple shared a wedding date, annulment abolishes the marriage, rendering it null and void in the eyes of the law. It’s as though the marriage never happened in California.

Why would someone want to do this? Well, emotions can run high during a bitter breakup, and it’s not unthinkable that one or both spouses may wish the whole thing had never happened. However, not every relationship is eligible for an annulment.

Here are the legal reasons for an annulment in California:

  • If the marriage is incestuous. Close blood relatives are not allowed to marry.
  • If one spouse is already married/in a domestic partnership with someone else. It doesn’t matter in which jurisdiction; bigamy is illegal and grounds for an annulment of the second marriage. Also, if the marriage or partnership happened five years after a former spouse went missing and was presumed dead, it is still grounds for an annulment.
  • If one or both spouses was under 18 at the time of marriage. Not every young couple will ask for an annulment, and many who marry young are successful at it. However, California recognizes that minors may make hasty decisions, and allows them annulment to undo a later-unwanted marriage.
  • If fraudulent or criminal activity was concealed from one spouse by the other. Also, if a preexisting medical condition was purposefully undisclosed, such as a terminal illness or drug addiction, that also counts as fraud.
  • If one of the spouses is incapable of consummating the marriage. Impotency is discovered to have existed before and after the marriage
  • If one or both of the married couple are mentally incapable of consensual marriage. This could be because they don’t understand the nature of marriage, or are psychologically ill.
  • If the marriage was forced. No one can be married against his or her will in any state. If coercion can be proven, that’s grounds for annulment.

It is important to consider certain deadlines with regard to filing for annulment. In California, the amount of time you have to file for annulment depends on the reason for your annulment request. For example, underage spouses have a statute of limitations of four years after the 18th birthday of the underage spouse.

There are also difficulties that arise regarding finances and any children the couple share. For instance, in California, a child born to wedded parents automatically belongs to those parents. Since an annulment says marriage never happened, the child’s paternity will need to be re-established legally.

As you can see, being granted an annulment is a detailed and meticulous operation. If you are considering an annulment, or are curious about what options you have and whether or not your ongoing separation may qualify, please contact the San Diego family law attorneys at Mattis Law, A.P.C., at (858) 458-9500 for a free, confidential consultation.

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Posted in: Divorce

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