How to Get a Marriage Annulment in California: The Ultimate Guide

February 2, 2023

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If you are seeking an annulment of your marriage in California, you may feel overwhelmed and confused about the process. But don't worry, this guide is designed to provide all the information you need to know about getting an annulment in the state of California. We'll cover everything from the legal definition of an annulment to the required documents, costs, and timeline for the annulment process. By the end of this guide, you'll have a clear understanding of the annulment process in California and be well on your way to having your marriage annulled.

What is an annulment?

An annulment in California is a legal process which is designed to declare a marriage void or invalid. Annulment may be granted when there are legal grounds to do so, and it is often used as an alternative to divorce in certain circumstances. When an annulment is granted, it means the marriage is no longer recognized under the law and the spouses are no longer considered married. An annulment differs from divorce in that it declares the marriage was never valid to begin with, while a divorce terminates a valid marriage. In California, an annulment may be granted on the basis of fraud, bigamy, physical incapacity, lack of consent, or unsound mind.

Grounds for an annulment in California

In California, the grounds for an annulment are the same as those for divorce. Generally, the main grounds for annulment are fraud, bigamy, incest, unsound mind, physical incapacity to consummate the marriage, and underage or lack of parental or judicial consent.

Fraud: In California, a marriage can be annulled if one spouse entered the marriage under false pretenses or with hidden intentions. The party seeking the annulment must show that the other party made a false representation with the intention of deceiving them.

Bigamy: An annulment can be granted if one of the spouses was already married when entering into the marriage in question.

Incest: If either spouse is related by blood within the degree of consanguinity recognized by law (generally siblings, half-siblings, first cousins, aunts, uncles, etc.), then an annulment can be granted.

Unsound Mind: If a person was unable to understand the nature of the marriage due to mental illness or intoxication at the time of marriage, then an annulment may be granted.

Physical Incapacity to Consummate the Marriage: If a person was physically unable to consummate the marriage (i.e., incapable of sexual intercourse), an annulment may be granted.

Underage or Lack of Parental or Judicial Consent: If a person was under 18 years old at the time of marriage and did not have parental consent or court approval, then an annulment may be granted.

In addition to these grounds, there may be some additional rules that may allow for an annulment in California. These include failing to disclose a prior felony conviction, entering into the marriage in order to obtain immigration benefits, and failing to disclose a prior pregnancy.

Filing for an annulment in California

The process for filing for an annulment in California is quite straightforward. Before you start, it is important to know that only certain conditions are considered valid grounds for annulment in the state. These include lack of capacity to consent, fraud, force, or physical incapacity of one of the parties.

1. Gather the required documents: You will need to gather all relevant documents including proof of residency, identity documents such as your driver’s license or passport, proof of marriage such as a marriage certificate, and any other documents relevant to your case.

2. File a Petition for Annulment: You can file a petition for annulment either with the court where you live or the court where you were married. You can access the necessary forms online or through the county clerk's office. You will also need to submit a copy of your marriage certificate.

3. Serve Notice on Your Spouse: Once you have filed your petition, you will need to serve notice to your spouse. This can be done by mail or in person. The exact method of service will depend on your jurisdiction.

4. Wait for Response: After you have served notice to your spouse, they will have 30 days to respond. If they do not respond within this time frame, you can proceed without their consent.

5. Appear in Court: In some cases, you may need to appear in court to finalize your annulment. At the hearing, you will present your case to the judge and answer any questions they may have.

6. Finalize Your Annulment: After the hearing, the judge will make a decision about your annulment. If it is granted, the judge will sign an order that officially declares your marriage null and void. This document must then be filed with the court.

Finalizing your annulment

Once your annulment is approved, you can move forward with finalizing it. To finalize your annulment in California, you must follow the below steps:

1. Make sure you have all of the required paperwork. This includes a copy of the marriage certificate, the Petition for Dissolution or Declaration of Invalidity of Marriage, and any other documents that were filed with the court.

2. File your annulment paperwork. Submit your signed and dated Petition for Dissolution or Declaration of Invalidity of Marriage to the court. Depending on the type of annulment you’re seeking, you may also need to submit additional paperwork.

3. Attend a court hearing. The judge will review your case at a court hearing and make a decision regarding your annulment. During this hearing, you may need to present evidence to support your case, such as witnesses or documents.

4. Pay the court fees. In California, annulments can be expensive, as you will have to pay a variety of court fees. Make sure you have enough money to cover the court costs before filing for an annulment.

5. Wait for a decision from the court. Once all of the paperwork has been filed, the judge will make a decision regarding your annulment and issue a court order. This is legally binding and allows you to move forward with finalizing your annulment.

6. Get certified copies of the annulment. After the court order is issued, you must obtain certified copies of it to use as proof of your annulment. You can get these from the county clerk's office or from the court clerk who handled your case.

7. Update your records. Once your annulment is finalized, make sure to update all of your records accordingly. This includes changing your name with the Social Security Administration, updating any legal documents that list your marital status, and notifying any employers or creditors about the change in status.

By following these steps, you can successfully finalize your annulment in California and move forward with the next chapter in life.

How much does it cost to get an annulment in California?

The cost of an annulment in California depends on several factors, such as the complexity of your case and the amount of paperwork required. Generally, filing fees will range from $135-$435. In addition, there may be court-related costs and attorney’s fees if you decide to hire a lawyer.

When filing for an annulment in California, the petitioner (the person who is filing for the annulment) will be responsible for paying the filing fee at the court clerk's office. If you are unable to pay the filing fee, you may qualify for a fee waiver. To apply for a fee waiver, you must complete and file form FW-001 and provide proof of your financial situation. The court may grant or deny your request.

If you choose to hire an attorney, the cost will vary depending on the lawyer’s experience and expertise. Some lawyers may charge an hourly rate while others may charge a flat fee. You should contact several lawyers and ask them about their rates before making a decision. It is important to remember that an annulment can take several months to complete, so you should factor in this time when estimating the overall cost.

How long does it take to process annulment?

The annulment process can vary in length depending on the circumstances and complexity of the case. In most cases, however, the process is relatively quick compared to divorce proceedings. Generally, it can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months for an annulment to be finalized in California.

The first step of the process is filing your paperwork with the court. This typically takes 2-3 days. Once your paperwork is filed, the court will review the case and issue a hearing date. Depending on how busy the court is, this could take anywhere from 3 - 6 weeks.

During the hearing, the court will consider any evidence presented by both parties and make a ruling. If the judge rules in favor of an annulment, then it will be finalized immediately. If there are any issues or disagreements, then it could take longer to come to a resolution. The entire process could take as little as 4-6 weeks, or up to 6 months if more complicated issues arise. It's important to remember that every case is unique and may require different amounts of time to complete.

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This material is provided for educational purposes only. Providing this information does not establish an attorney/client relationship. None of the information contained in this newsletter should be acted upon without first consulting with an attorney. Should you have questions about the content of this newsletter, please arrange to discuss via a consultation.