Palm Springs Annulment Attorneys
Annulment is a specialized area of California family law practice. An Annulment can importantly affect and alter your rights and obligations. Your eligibility for this type of decree is strictly governed by statute in this State - annulments are only granted if certain conditions are met. They are pretty rare - less than eight percent of all United States marriages are annulled.
The following information will help answer whether the Court will likely annul your marriage or domestic partnership.
Annulment in California is referred to as a "Nullity of Marriage". As a sentiment it describes a desire to wipe the slate clean and be returned to the legal state before marriage, often without the legal and financial consequences that result from valid marriages - such as the creation of community property or an entitlement to receive spousal support. It may also result in the loss of health insurance coverage and pension benefits, among other valuable rights. If you are responding to an annulment request, please understand that your failure to challenge the other party's requests may have significant negative economic consequences for you.
Annulment is one of the alternative requests of the FL-100 California Judicial Council Petition for Dissolution and as with all court forms, the appropriate boxes must be checked in order for the Court to have the jurisdiction to consider your request. You should check both the annulment and the dissolution boxes and type in 'in the alternative' so that if a judge determines you do not qualify for an annulment it can still grant the divorce; this way you don't need to start from scratch if your request is rejected.
A Decree of Annulment cannot be granted just because you and your spouse or domestic partner agree you want it.
California Family Code sections 2200
et seq. set forth the grounds that qualify you for one. The statutory criteria are divided into two broad categories: Void and Voidable Marriages.
What is a Void Marriage?
A "void marriage" is between people related to a certain degree by blood (half siblings, uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces). How closely people need to be related by blood before their marriage is deemed invalid differs from state to state. In California you can validly marry a cousin, whereas in other states that union would be considered incestuous. Such marriages are deemed to have no legal effect.
Grounds for annulment most commonly include "bigamous" marriages, which sometimes occur where one party thought they had a decree of divorce from a previous spouse but it was never reduced to a formal Judgment. Honest mistakes can be made - sometimes a party believed their attorney brought the case to its full conclusion, but more typically a party was representing themselves and didn't understand what formal documents needed to be filed to finally dissolve the earlier marriage.
For an innocent spouse in the case of
((Family Code section 2201)) as a result of an existing marriage, such a result can work an extreme hardship on a person who reasonably believed their marriage was valid, and so be totally unfair. To be denied a right to spousal support or the division of property after years of believing one was legitimately married, only because the other spouse kept their prior still-existing marriage a secret, may be unjust.
Therefore the law protects such legally unmarried persons if they qualify as "putative" spouses. Where a person had no reason to suspect that their marriage was invalid and if they relied upon their belief that they were legally married, putative spouses can be afforded the same rights as married persons receive even though there is otherwise no marriage in the eyes of the law. This is not an area where you should represent yourself.
When are Marriages Voidable?
Unlike void marriages which, "voidable marriages" are only void if certain conditions are met and have not been waived - they are automatically illegitimate. These conditions are fact specific. They may include marriages involving an unemancipated minor, or where a prior spouse was reasonably believed to be dead, marriages involving a person of unsound mind, marriages where the consent of either party was obtained through a fraud that relates to the essence of the marital relation, marriages where consent was obtained by force, or most commonly when either party at the time of the marriage was physically incapable of sexually consummating the union if that incapacity continued and is incurable. These situations are pretty rare, but they do arise.
Family Code section 2210 sets forth the statutory grounds for annulment in California. It will give you some further guidance on this subject.