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Obtaining an Annulment Can Be Difficult

What is an annulment? An annulment, also known as "nullity of marriage" or "nullity of domestic partnership," is when a court determines your marriage or domestic partnership is not legally valid.


A court will only grant an annulment if found that the marriage was illegal. Annulment has nothing to do with the length of the marriage. Even if both spouses agree to an annulment, you will have to prove in court that your marriage was illegal in the first place. Otherwise, you will not qualify for or be granted an annulment.


In California, there are eight (8) reasons why a judge would find the marriage illegal and grant an annulment:

  • Incest - A marriage between close blood relates is illegal

  • Bigamy - A marriage where one of the spouses is already married or involved in a registered domestic partnership is illegal.

  • A Spouse is or was a minor at the time of the wedding - If a spouse was under 18 and did not have a judge's permission to marry, you may seek an annulment within 4 years of your 18th birthday.

  • Fraud - If you were tricked or enticed into marriage by lying, misrepresenting, or withholding information, you may apply for an annulment within 4 years of finding out about the fraud.

  • Unsound mind - A person with severe mental illness is not of sound mind and cannot decide to enter into a contract or other legal agreement, such as a marriage.

  • Physically unable to consummate the marriage - If a spouse is physically unable to have sexual relations and the issue cannot be medically resolved, you may file for an annulment within 4 years of the wedding date.

  • Believed a former spouse was dead but wasn't - If your former spouse has been missing for more than 5 years and thought to be dead, or was generally believed to be dead but turned out to be alive, you may ask for an annulment of your subsequent marriage.

  • Forced into the marriage - If you were forced into a marriage against your will, you may seek an annulment within 4 years of the marriage.


An annulment is not taken lightly. You cannot end a legal marriage with an annulment, so the burden of proof is on the petitioner to prove that the marriage was illegal and should not have taken place. 


An annulment is not the end of marriage the same way a divorce ends a marriage. The marriage never took place with an annulment, so there is no division of assets after an annulment, and the court will not grant spousal support.


The court can address child support, parenting time, and custody issues if the spouses have children together. Since an annulment means that a marriage never took place, before these issues can be discussed, paternity must be legally established.


For an annulment, the 6-month residency requirement and 6-month waiting period are both waived. For a legal divorce, you must be a state resident for 6 months and a resident of the county where you are filing for 3 months. California also has a 6 month waiting period, or cooling off period, after papers are served before the divorce can be finalized.

Each of the eight reasons for annulment has essential details you must prove to get a court to give you an annulment. These requirements differentiate an annulment case from a divorce or a legal separation, from which, due to the California no-fault law, no proof of wrongdoing is required. 

Proving a legally valid reason to get an annulment can be difficult. However, if you feel you have a reason for an annulment, please set up a consultation with the Law Office James Chau to discuss the details of your situation.

The Law Office of James Chau, P.C., represents clients in San Jose, California, and all surrounding areas.

For more information and to schedule a personal consultation with the Law Offices of James Chau, P.C., please contact us online or call our San Jose, California office at (408) 899-8364.

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