Orange County Annulment Attorneys
What is an annulment?
An annulment, or a nullity, is a void or voidable marriage.
What circumstances need to be present in order for the Court to grant an annulment?
Courts differentiate between void and voidable marriages. Void marriages are those that are unlawful from the outset of the marriage. Examples of void marriages include situations where one of the spouses was already married at the time of the subsequent “marriage” (bigamy) and where the parties are an incestuous relationship. These marriages are regarded as having never existed. More often, courts encounter cases where marriages are voidable, meaning that the marriage was legitimate at the outset, but then circumstances learned after the date of marriage give cause to invalidate the marriage. Voidable marriages may occur when at least one of the parties is below the age of 18 and there was no parental consent or court order allowing the marriage, where one party is of an “unsound mind” and did not live with his/her spouse, where the consent to marry was obtained by fraud or force, where one of the parties to the marriage lacked capacity to marry, and where the former spouse of one of the parties was believed to be dead at the time of the subsequent marriage. Family Code §2210.
If I am attempting to convince the Court that my spouse defrauded me into the marriage, what will I need to prove?
Annulments often involve claims that one of the parties defrauded the other party into marriage. Case law requires that the fraud must go to the essence of the marital relationship. In other words, the court may nullify a marriage based on fraud where one spouse conceals from the party a fact material to the other party’s consent to the marriage that defeats the purpose of the marriage. For example, if one of the spouses refuses to consummate the marital relationship, fraud may be found. It is important to note that when the spouse petitioning for the nullity becomes fully aware of the circumstances surrounding the fraud, he or she cannot continue to live with the other spouse. Additionally, California law imposes a 4-year statute of limitations to commence a petition for nullity. The statute begins to run when the party whose consent was obtained by fraud discovered the facts constituting the fraud. Family Code §2211(d).
Can the Court award custody and visitation, child and spousal support, property rights and attorney’s fees in a nullity proceeding?
Yes. The Family Court has jurisdiction over these issues during a nullity proceeding.
If the Courts grants a nullity, but I acted in good faith believing that the marriage was valid, can the Court still divide our property and order the other party to pay me spousal support?
Yes. In cases where at least one of the parties proceeded into the marriage in good faith, the court must declare that spouse a putative spouse. Family Code §2251(a). Here, the property that was acquired during the voidable marriage is divided in the same way as a valid marriage, and support may be ordered for one of the parties as if the marriage were valid.
What results when a Judgment of Nullity is granted?
The marriage is invalidated, and, unlike a dissolution of marriage, the law treats the parties as if they never were married.
At Wilkinson & Finkbeiner, we have extensive experience in the area of annulments. We will explain the legal ramifications to your case whether you choose to file for a dissolution, legal separation or for an annulment. If your case involves an annulment, then we will help marshal the evidence necessary to defend or attack the validity of the marriage. For a free case evaluation, contact our Orange County annulment lawyers today.