Monday, October 8, 2007

Annulments in California

An annulment is a legal proceeding in which a marriage is declared invalid. Legally speaking, if an annulment is granted, the marriage never happened. This means that there is no property to divide, and the court does not have the power to award spousal support to either party. The idea that the marriage never existed is really a legal fiction; both the marriage and the nullity proceeding will be public record, and anyone can access the information in the future. Unlike a divorce, an annulment always requires a trial, even if the other party agrees the marriage should be annulled. Also unlike a divorce, there is no waiting period in an annulment. Also, the court can dissolve the marriage immediately, without any waiting period. There are two types of annulments: those based upon void marriages, and those based upon voidable marriages. An annulment based upon a void marriage would be are marriages that can never be valid, regardless of how much time has passed between when the parties were married and when the parties separated. This includes the example of bigamy. If one party is already married at the time he or she attempts to remarry, the second marriage can almost never be valid (there are some exceptions to this rule). Therefore, the marriage would be void, no matter how much time has gone by. Because the marriage was never valid to begin with, for this type of situation, the court will never look at how long the couple was married in deciding whether the marriage should be annulled. The court will grant the annulment at any time based upon the fact that the marriage never existed. The second basis is a voidable marriage. This is the most common situation. This includes: one person being under the legal age when he or she was married, one or both persons being under the influence at the time the parties marry, one or both persons were insane at the time the parties married, or the marriage was based upon fraud. Fraud is by far the most common basis for an annulment. An annulment based upon fraud requires one spouse to prove sastifactorily to the court that (1) your spouse represented something to you before you got married that went to the heart of the marriage, (2) the injured spouse only learned that the representation was not true after the parties married, (3) had the injured party known the truth he or she would not have gotten married, and (4) the injured party separated from the other spouse within a reasonable time after discovering the truth. A misrepresentation going to the heart of the mariage has been narrowly construed. Generally speaking, the misrepresentation must be about one spouse's actual love for the other or a misrepresentation about anything that effects the parties' ability to have children. For instance, a spouse would qualify for an annulment based upon fraud if one spouse representated to the other that he or she wanted to get married because he or she loved the other spouse and the injured spouse later discovered the other spouse actually married the injured spouse to obtain a green card. Similarly, an annulment is possible if one spouse tells the injured spouse before the marriage that he or she wants children, and the injured spouse later found out the other was impotent or sterile, the court would find fraud. On the other hand, one spouse having a hidden addiction does not qualify. For those people who do not qualify, but have only been married a short amount of time, they may qualify for a simple procedure called a summary dissolution. This type of divorce which is designed for people with little or no assets and who have been married for only a short time. The process is much simpler, involves less forms, does not require any court appearances, and can be done without a lawyer. However, your spouse must cooperate, and sign the paperwork.

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