Explaining Marriage Annulment and Its Legal Implications
Marriage annulment legally declares a marriage invalid, as if it never existed. This is different from divorce, which terminates a valid marriage.
In a divorce, a couple divides marital property and assets. An annulment means that any property or assets acquired during the marriage would be treated as if the couple were never married.
Grounds for a Marriage Annulment in California
- Fraud, such as:
- A partner lying about their identity
- One party concealing a pregnancy from their partner before getting married
- Coercion, where one party is forced into the marriage
- One party being underage at the time of the marriage
- Lack of mental capacity, being unable to consent to the marriage at the time
The Annulment Process in California
First, you must meet the eligibility requirements for an annulment. Once eligibility is established, the petitioner completes a series of forms and files them with the court. These documents include a petition for annulment, financial disclosures, and a summons.
If the other party responds to the petition, the case may go to court, and that court will issue a judgement. However, if the other party does not respond within by a certain time, the petitioner can request a default judgment from the court.
Common Questions About Property Division in a Marriage Annulment
Courts will review each marriage annulment differently. There is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution for dividing property.
Sometimes, the property remains with the original owner and is not subject to division. It will go to the person whose name is on the lease.
If there is jointly owned property, the court can treat the annulment like a business dissolution. One party can pay the other off to keep the property, or the court may order that it is sold and the couple splits the profits.
Annulment is often the result of fraud or deceit. Courts may order one partner to give property to the other as a form of financial compensation. In this way, a family court acts more like a civil court.
The options above are just some ways a judge can handle property in a marriage annulment. Judges have a lot of room to make decisions in cases like these.
What to Consider When Dividing Property in a Marriage Annulment
Identify all assets and their value. This includes real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, retirement accounts, and personal items.
Consider each asset's ownership and the contribution each spouse made to its acquisition or maintenance. Even if you did not directly spend money on the property, you may have some ownership of it. For instance, if you took care of the home, the court may see this as a form of maintenance. They could grant you a portion of the money after the home is sold.
Calculate any debts incurred during the marriage and how to fairly divide them. Remember, you are not sharing marital property in an annulment. The easiest solution could be to take responsibility for your portion of the debt and move on.
The Law Office of David A. Martin & Associates is here to help answer any questions you have about an annulment. In some situations, a divorce may be the better option. We may be able to review your case and guide your next steps. You can contact us online for a free consultation or schedule time with us by calling (916) 299-3936.