In California, an annulment takes place when a judge decides that a marriage was never valid in the first place. By making this determination the two parties involved have the same rights and obligations as they had before they attempted to marry. In other words, they have no marital obligations toward each other; no right to spousal support, no obligation to pay spousal support. If they bought property together and/or accumulated debt together, the rights and obligations they owe to each other are just like any two other unmarried people. If there are children involved, however, a court will determine child support and custody issues just like divorcing parents.
In some cases a marriage never existed for an annulment to be declared, such as:
Polygamy – one or both parties is already married
Incest – close blood relatives, such as parent-child, siblings, aunt or uncle-niece or nephew
In other cases, a marriage exists unless either spouse files for an annulment:
Age – If a party was under the age of 18 when they married, they can file for an annulment; however, they must do so within four years of after reaching age 18.
Prior Existing Marriage – This is different from polygamy, because a spouse remarries from a prior marriage believing their first spouse died or had been absent for five years. Either spouse can file for an annulment as long as both parties to the current marriage are alive.
Unsound Mind – Either party was not mentally able to understand the nature of marriage and the obligations that come with it. The spouse claiming the other spouse is of unsound mind can file for an annulment or a relative or conservator of party of unsound mind any time up to the death of either party
Fraud - Either party got married as a result of fraud or deceit. The fraud has to be about something vital to the marriage that directly affected why the party who was deceived agreed to the marriage, such as hiding the inability to have children or only marrying to get a green card. Only the party claiming they were deceived can file for an annulment and it must be within four years of discovering the fraud.
Force – One party only entered the marriage as a result of force or violence. A request for an annulment must be filed within four years of the marriage and only by the alleged victim.
Physical Incapacity – This term usually means that one party to the marriage is incapable of consummating the marriage and the incapacity is permanent. The request for annulment can only be filed by the party claiming the other party has a physical incapacity, and it must be filed within four years of the date of marriage.
Annulment actions can be very complex, and it’s advisable for anyone contemplating getting an annulment to consult with a family law specialist.