Attorney Steven E. Springer at desk


Steven E. Springer Aug. 12, 2015

Broken plate that spells marriage with hammerBoth an annulment and a divorce end a marriage. But while a divorce ends a valid, existing marriage, an annulment declares that the marriage was never valid in the first place. If a marriage is annulled, then under the law, it never existed at all.


In California, there are several grounds for the annulment of a marriage. A marriage is void, meaning that it was never valid, if either of the following conditions existed at the time of the marriage:

  • Consanguinity: the spouses were closely related by blood; or

  • Bigamy: one spouse was already married at the time of the wedding.

A marriage is voidable, which means that it may be declared invalid, if any of the following grounds existed:

  • Nonage: one spouse was under the age of 18;

  • Fraud: either spouse got married as a result of fraud, which fraud must go to the essence of the marriage; e.g. if the purpose of the marriage was to get a green card, or hiding an inability to have children;

  • Incurable physical incapacity: at the time of the wedding, one spouse was unable to consummate the marriage;

  • Unsound mind: either spouse was unable to understand the nature of the marriage or the obligations attached to marriage; or

  • Force: either spouse consented to the marriage because of force.

The spouse asking for the annulment must prove that one of the above conditions existed at the time of the marriage. If he or she cannot, the annulment will not be granted.

To get an annulment in California, one spouse must live in the state, but there is no requirement that the spouse live in the state for any length of time. A spouse files for annulment in the county where he or she lives. To annul a domestic partnership, the spouses are not even required to live in California.


California has a

  • Consanguinity: no statute of limitations;

  • Bigamy: any time while the first spouse is alive;

  • Nonage: four years after the underage spouse turns 18;

  • Fraud: four years after discovering the fraud;

  • Incurable physical incapacity: within four years of getting married;

  • Unsound mind: any time before one spouse dies; and

  • Force: within four years of getting married.


Getting a marriage annulled may cause paternity issues, as any children of the marriage are deemed illegitimate after an annulment. However, there are presumptions of paternity in California that will generally mean that the former husband is the legal father of the children.

A couple who has annulled their marriage must divide their own assets and debts. The court does not have the authority to do this, as it would in a divorce. Additionally, after an annulment, neither party may be granted alimony and neither party may receive spousal survivorship benefits.

The process and consequences of an annulment are different from those of a divorce, so it is important to get the advice of an experienced San Jose family law attorney. If you are considering annulling your marriage, please contact The Law Offices of Steven E. Springer at 408-779-4700 to schedule your initial consultation, in Morgan Hill, San Jose or Fremont.