When many people hear of an “annulment” of marriage, their thoughts turn to religious annulments, such as those given by the Catholic Church. In family law, the term “annulment” refers to a judicial order declaring a marriage invalid; this type of annulment can only be granted by a judge in a civil court proceeding. Although an annulment makes it as if a marriage never occurred, in most cases, there are deadlines by which a request for annulment must be made. The legal term for the time period by which a lawsuit must be filed is “statute of limitations.”
In California, there are two types of marriages that may be annulled: void and voidable. A void marriage is invalid from the very start. Only two types of marriages fall into this category, those that are incestuous and those that are bigamous. The other six grounds for an annulment are known as “voidable” because it requires some action to invalidate the marriage. Those grounds are age, a prior existing marriage or domestic partnership, unsound mind, fraud, force, or physical incapacity. You can read more about the grounds for annulment at our earlier blog here.
The statute of limitations for requesting a civil annulment depends on the reason for annulment.
The parent of a person who marries under the age of 18 years may request an annulment any time before the child’s 18th birthday. In addition, the minor who married while under age 18 may request an annulment before his or her 22nd birthday.
Earlier Marriage or Domestic Partnership
Either party to a marriage may request an annulment if one of them has a prior existing marriage or domestic partnership. Additionally, the earlier spouse or domestic partner may request that the marriage be annulled.
An annulment on the ground that one of the parties was of unsound mind must be requested before either party to the voidable marriage dies. Either the spouse who claims the other spouse was of unsound mind or a person who is legally responsible for the person of unsound mind may request the annulment.
If one of the parties to a marriage entered into the marriage because of fraud, he or she may request an annulment within four years after discovering the fraud.
A person who was forced to give his or her consent to marry may request an annulment within four years after the date of marriage.
A spouse may have a marriage annulled on the ground that the other spouse was physically incapable of consummating their relationship. This type of annulment must be requested within four years of the date of marriage.
California laws include specific requirements that must be met for an annulment, and the person requesting the annulment must prove that one of the grounds exists. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger have extensive experience in family law matters, including annulments. Contact us today to learn how our attorneys can protect you and your children: (415) 293-8314.