When Can a Marriage Be Annulled

When Can a Marriage Be Annulled?

Magicians sometimes wave a magic wand over objects to make them vanish. When it comes to making a marriage disappear, the courts don’t have a magic wand. Instead, judges wield California laws that allow annulment. However, under what circumstances can a marriage be annulled?

What Really Happens to an Annulled Marriage?

The marriage is considered invalid. In fact, it’s as if it never existed. Some marriages are always considered invalid, whether you request an annulment or not. Spouses cannot be close blood relatives or what might be considered an incestuous relationship. Also, spouses cannot be legally married or in a registered domestic partnership with someone else.

Marriages May Be Annulled Due to a Problem with One Partner

Of course, it takes two people to have a marriage. However, that relationship can be terminated if one spouse is:
  • Underage. Annulment may be granted if one or both people were under age 18 as of the wedding date.
  • Unsound Mind. If one party lacks the capacity to understand the wedding ceremony, the marriage may be dissolved. Someone who is underage, intellectually challenged, or senile may be unable to agree to a marriage.
  • Unable to Consummate. One party may request an annulment if the other party is unable to consummate the marriage due to a physical incapacity that is expected to be incurable.
Marriages may also be dissolved for other reasons.

An Annulment Might Be Requested Because of One Party’s Actions

Sometimes one party may do something that makes annulment possible:
  • Fraud. One party may lie or misrepresent an issue that directly affects the other party’s decision to marry. This is considered fraud. For example, green-card marriages can be dissolved through annulment.
  • Force. Marriages can be annulled when one party forces the other party to marry against their will.

A Marriage Can Be Annulled, but Deadlines Apply

Annulments must be requested within certain time frames. For example, you have four years after the date an underage spouse turns 18 within which to request an annulment. Other deadlines apply, depending on the reason for the annulment. Please call us at 415-293-8314 to discuss your case. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger assist clients with divorce matters in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.
5 Reasons to Seek an Annulment

5 Reasons to Seek an Annulment

In California, couples who wish to end their marriages may get a divorce. Another option – annulment – may not be as well-known but can be the right choice for some. Though an annulment and divorce both dissolve a marriage, they have different meanings. A divorce terminates a valid marriage while an annulment states that the marriage was never valid. In fact, the invalid marriage is treated as if it never happened.

Marriages are always considered invalid if:

  • The couple are close blood relatives; or
  • One of the spouses was already married or in a registered domestic partnership with another person.

Read on to learn about five more reasons a couple may seek an annulment.


If one or both parties to the marriage were under age 18 at the time of marriage, then the court can declare that the marriage is invalid.

Lack of Capacity

If one or both parties were of unsound mind, the marriage can be annulled. Someone who is of unsound mind may not understand the consequences of the wedding ceremony or even understand that a marriage has taken place.


Sometimes one spouse will coerce someone into marriage by misrepresenting certain issues related to their partnership. For example, lying about issues like the ability to have children or the fact that the couple are marrying to affect citizenship status can lead to an annulment.


A marriage can be annulled when one party compels the other to be married against their Will. One example would be a girl that is forced to marry for religious reasons.

Inability to Consummate

One party to a marriage may be unable to consummate a marriage due to an incapacity that seems incurable and likely to continue. In that case, the marriage can be dissolved through an annulment.

Do You Need to File for an Annulment or a Divorce?

There may be some advantages to filing for an annulment, since the marriage is retroactively dissolved. If you need to terminate your marriage or registered domestic partnership, contact an attorney immediately.

Judy Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist, and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. Please call our offices at 415-293-8314 to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys. We assist clients along the Northern to Central California Coast.

By When Must You Request an Annulment in California?

By When Must You Request an Annulment in California?
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.

Unsound Mind

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.

Physical Incapacity

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.

What Is an Annulment and Am I Eligible to Get One?

What Is an Annulment and Am I Eligible to Get One?

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a divorce and an annulment? The term “annulment” is sometimes used to refer to a marriage being annulled by a church or religious authority. However, an annulment has a very specific meaning from a legal standpoint.

A judgment of nullity under California law is commonly called an “annulment”. Whereas a divorce represents the end of a valid, legal marriage, a judgment of nullity, once rendered, declares that no legal marriage ever existed.

There are two categories of annulments in California, marriages that are void and those that are voidable. Void marriages are illegal and void from the beginning. Only incestuous and bigamous marriages fall into this narrow category. Incestuous marriage is defined by law as those between close blood relatives, including parents with children, siblings with half siblings, and uncles or aunts with nieces and nephews. First cousins are not on this list. Bigamous marriages, on the other hand, occur when one of the spouses is currently married to someone else and that marriage has never been terminated, such as by divorce, death, or annulment.

The grounds for annulment based on voidable marriage are explicitly listed in California statutes:

  • Lack of capacity due to age (under 18) and no parental consent;
  • Lack of capacity due to unsound mind, such as extreme intoxication or mental impairment;
  • Consent to marriage obtained by fraud, such as misrepresenting the ability to have children;
  • Consent to marriage obtained by force;
  • Prior existing marriage, in which the party believed his or her spouse had been dead or missing for at least five years; and
  • Lack of physical capacity to be married, such as male impotence, that appears to be incurable.

Marriages based on these grounds are valid unless and until a court enters a judgment of nullity. There is a significant exception, however, for the first four of these grounds: The marriage is not voidable if, after the condition passes (age, unsound mind, fraud, or force), the affected party voluntarily lives with the would-be spouse. For example, if a person marries while 16 years of age but continues to live with the spouse once she is 18, her marriage will no longer be voidable.

There may be unintended consequences to annulments. For instance, there will generally be no right to spousal support because the marriage was never valid, and there will be no presumption of community property for assets acquired during the “marriage.” If children were born, their paternity will have to be adjudicated before custody, visitation, and child support can be determined by the court.

Specific time frames apply to each of these grounds for voidable marriages, and the facts of each situation can change the outcome. If you are interested in learning more about whether your marriage may be void or voidable, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney. Judy L. Burger has extensive experience in all family law matters in Northern California. Call her today or contact her online to learn about how California law applies to the facts of your case.