Divorce Versus Annulment in California: What Are The Differences?

family law and divorce legal adviceMarital conflict is often emotionally-draining, and it can be difficult to formulate your next steps when you are under duress and turmoil. You probably have thousands of questions swimming in your head, and thankfully a family law attorney can help provide you with some insight to most of these difficult questions. At the R&S Law Group, LLP, one of the first questions we hear is “should I get an annulment or a divorce?”
We present this post in hopes of shedding some light into this issue, as the two are very different processes. Keep in mind that these are general guidelines as per California family law, for more specific assistance we invite you to reach out to us at the R&S Law Group, LLP.
What Separates Annulment from Divorce?
Filing for either an annulment or a divorce is initiated by a similar process, but that is where any similarities end. In simple terms, as far as California law goes, an annulment is designed to “cancel out” an existing marriage, whereas a divorce places a bigger emphasis on splitting up assets and establishing child custody arrangements.
In other words, annulments are ideal for situations where the marriage is not valid and should be regarded as never having actually taken place. There are several grounds upon which a judge might accept a proposal for annulling a marriage, which include the following circumstances:

  • One spouse was already part of a previous, legally-valid marriage.
  • The spouse who seeks an annulment was under the age of 18 when he/she got married.
  • The couple is related by blood.
  • Either spouse committed or perpetuated a fraud in order to marry the other person.
  • Either spouse was forced or coerced to get married.
  • One or both spouses are declared to be of “unsound mind” and unfit to understand the nature of their marriage
    One thing to note is that the burden of proof lies with the person who is seeking to have a marriage annulled. If a judge isn’t convinced that the circumstances surrounding the marriage fall under one of the valid reasons for annulling a marriage, he/she can deny the request.
    This is why, in most cases, divorce/legal separation makes the most sense. Annulments are rather specialized “separation proceedings” that only apply under specific circumstances. At any rate, if you have any questions about divorce or family law in California, we invite you to reach out to us at the R&S Law Group, LLP.