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
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
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
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.