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Family Law Blog

James D. Madden & Aruna P. Rodrigo, Family Law Attorneys

When Is Annulment an Option? 09-16-2015

When Is Annulment an Option?

The Historical Role of Annulments

Annulments are an interesting legal artifact—they come from a time when marriage was centrally focused on producing children, and when divorce was taboo for religious reasons. For that reason, people needed a way to back out of a marriage without acknowledging it ever happened.

These days, divorce is a routine legal proceeding, but annulments still exist because they serve a specific purpose. The central difference between divorce and annulment is this: divorce dissolves a marriage, but as in medieval centuries, annulment legally erases the marriage as though it never occured.

Though California divorce law does not require a legal reason for divorce—this is known as a “no-fault” divorce law—annulment requires justification because legal erasure is a far more drastic result than dissolution.

What Are the Grounds For Annulment?

The grounds for annulment are fairly broad, but do require some truly exceptional circumstances. For the most part, many annulments are granted on grounds of undisclosed information, meaning there is usually some form of fraud or deception involved. Often, ignorance is one of the commonly-claimed grounds for annulment.

Grounds for annulment include:

  • Accidental incest
  • Misrepresentation / severe deception
  • Hiding pertinent information (ex. an STI)
  • Lack of consent (due to age or mental state)
  • Inability to “consummate the marriage”
  • Previous marriages that have not been dissolved

Annulment Benefits

While annulment usually involves some form of social stigma or sensitive issue, it offers some benefits. For one thing, it is usually mutual and is a much faster process than divorce. In addition, the circumstances of annulment often means annulment happens when the marriage is fairly recent. As a result, property division is rarely necessary, if ever. While annulment is personally difficult, the law mercifully provides a quick and practical way of undoing a marriage permanently and completely, in the right circumstances.

If you have any questions about divorce law or annulments, contact Attorney Matthew Sheasby. As a board certified family law specialist, I’m more than happy to answer your questions.

Categories: Divorce Law

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