An annulment is a legal term that means to declare something invalid. Thus, when a California marriage is annulled, it is as though the marriage never occurred. While annulments are rare under California law, the repercussions of an annulment can be great, so it is important for those in the process of a California separation to understand what an annulment is and what the consequences of an annulment are.
In California, an annulment is only proper in limited circumstances. Some marriages are never valid, including those that are incestuous or bigamous. However, other marriages can be declared invalid by a court under certain circumstances, including when:
- One or both of the spouses were not of the legal age to marry;
- Either spouse was not of sound mind;
- The marriage was based on some act of fraud regarding a matter that was material to the relationship; or
- One of the spouses was forced into the marriage.
Importantly, in order for any of the above to satisfy the requirements of an annulment, the fact giving rise to the annulment must have been present at the time of the marriage. That is to say, for example, fraud committed during the marriage cannot be the basis for an annulment.
The effect of an annulment is very different from the effect of a divorce. For example, either spouse of an annulled marriage will not qualify for spousal benefits. Additionally, the spouses’ property will not be subject to division based on community property rules. Child support, however, is unaffected by an annulment and is calculated the same as in a divorce.
A recent opinion issued by the Fourth Appellate District of California discussed the elements of an annulment.
The Facts of the Case
The husband and wife were married in Nigeria in 1989. At the time, the wife told the husband that she was born in 1960. However, she was actually born in 1968. This fact was reflected on her passport and driver’s license.
During their marriage, the couple had a child who was born with sickle-cell anemia. When the wife met the husband, she did not disclose that she was a carrier for the disease, but she did not know she was a carrier until she was tested once she was pregnant.
After 20 years of marriage, the husband petitioned the court for an annulment. The court rejected the husband’s request and entered a dissolution order, granted custody of the couple’s children to the wife, and divided the couple’s property. The husband appealed several issues, one of which was the court’s decision not to grant the annulment.
On appeal, the husband claimed that the marriage was based on fraud in that the wife lied about her age and failed to disclose that she was a carrier of sickle-cell anemia. However, the appellate court agreed with the lower court and rejected the husband’s appeal. The court explained that regardless of what the wife told the husband regarding her age, her correct age was documented on her passport and driver’s license. Similarly, the wife had no knowledge of the fact that she was a carrier of sickle-cell disease.
Are You in the Middle of a California Separation?
If you and your spouse are currently in the process of separating, you should discuss your situation with a dedicated Bay Area divorce attorney with both the experience and the knowledge to zealously represent you throughout the process. While some California divorce proceedings are straightforward, the majority of couples face unanticipated issues along the way. Attorney John S. Yohanan has decades of experience representing both sides in all California divorce matters, and he has a deep understanding of the substantive laws that apply in California divorce, custody, and related family law matters. Call 408-297-0700 to schedule a free consultation with Attorney Yohanan today.
Related Blog Posts:
California Court Determines Husband’s Transfer of Business Interest to New Wife Was Made in Bad Faith, Bay Area Divorce Attorney Blog, October 12, 2017
California Appellate Court Determines Life Insurance Policy Purchased with Joint Funds Is Community Property, Bay Area Divorce Attorney Blog, September 22, 2017