How is an annulment different than a divorce?

Is your marriage eligible for an annulment, or will you need to file for divorce? What is the difference between an annulment and a divorce in the state of California? If you want to end your marriage, it is important to know the differences between the two.

Annulments and divorces can both end marriages. However, their legal definitions and requirements are quite different.

What is an annulment?

According to California Courts, an annulment declares a marriage to be invalid. This means that, legally speaking, it is as if the marriage never actually existed.

In which circumstances are annulments allowed?

In certain circumstances, a marriage can never be valid, such as those involving bigamy or incest. Additional situations where a partner could petition a court to deem the marriage invalid include:

  • The marriage took place under threat or force
  • One or both of the parties were already married to someone else at the time of this marriage
  • One of the partners was under the age of 18 when they got married
  • One committed fraud in order to induce the other to marry them
  • One of the partners lacked mental capacity to understand the nature and obligations of marriage
  • There was a continuing — and likely permanent — physical incapacity at the time of marriage that prevented its consummation

The party petitioning for an annulment must provide proof that one of these conditions existed in order to invalidate the marriage.

What happens after an annulment?

Unlike a divorce, an annulment proves that a marriage was never legal. if the two had children together, a judge must determine paternity in order to decide custody and child support matters. Also, the rights that come with divorce, such as division of communal property and spousal support, do not apply. This is why it is important to understand your legal rights before petitioning for an annulment or filing for a divorce.


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