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Getting your marriage annulled essentially means that it never happened in the eyes of the law. The process is much quicker but is not available to all married couples. In order to qualify for an annulment, your marriage must meet certain requirements. If you have questions, speak with an experienced Los Angeles annulment lawyer today to explore your legal options.
What is an Annulment?
An annulment is a legal process in which spouses petition a court to have their marriage declared null and void. When an annulment is complete, it will be as if the marriage and legal union never happened at all. When a marriage is annulled, the former spouses will no longer be:
- Prohibited from marrying another person
- Subject to marital property laws
- Able to enjoy the benefits of marriage (e.g., tax, healthcare)
The process of getting an annulment can be complicated. Contact an experienced Los Angeles family law attorney for help navigating the legal steps that are required to have your marriage annulled.
How Can a Los Angeles Annulment Lawyer Help?
Annulments are complicated in Los Angeles. Proving any of the qualifications required to annul a marriage can be challenging. A lawyer can review the circumstances of your marriage and determine if it’s void or voidable under California law. Then your Los Angeles annulment lawyer will:
- Your petition for annulment of marriage or domestic partnership form FL-100 is filled out correctly and filed in a timely manner in the appropriate jurisdiction
- Ensure that the summons form FL-110 is served according to the stringent requirements
- File the Declaration Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act if there are children of the marriage or domestic partnership
- Ensure that any other required forms unique to each jurisdiction are diligently filed in the appropriate time frame
- File proof that your spouse received the summons and blank response forms
- Get a court date for a judge to review your case
- Represent your rights under California’s annulment laws at the hearing and aggressively defend your best interests if you have property and debts to divide since California courts don’t divide property during an annulment since it’s effectively agreeing that the marital community never existed
Before you proceed with an annulment, your lawyer will strategize with you over the best way to proceed in order to achieve your desired outcome.
How Much Does an Annulment Attorney Charge?
Your Los Angeles annulment attorney charges standard fees for family lawyers in California—this is typically a $3,000 – $5,000 retainer. The amount your attorney will charge depends on the unique circumstances of your case and the duration of the process as well as what’s required. The filing fee for an annulment in most California jurisdictions is $450. The average hourly rate for a family law attorney in California is $300-$500 per hour.
What are the Requirements for Annulment?
Annulment is not available to all married spouses. In fact, marriages can only be annulled in a very limited number of situations. In order to get an annulment, your marriage must be classified as void or voidable.
Some marriages are considered to be void and invalid from the very beginning. In reality, the marriage should never have been permitted in the first place.
- Bigamy: In California, it is illegal to have more than one spouse. If you or your spouse was legally married at the time of your nuptials, your marriage is legally void. There are certain exceptions to this rule. Your marriage may not be considered void if your spouse (or your partner’s other spouse) is living, but was generally believed to be deceased. In order to get an annulment, you must be able to present proof of the other marriage.
- Incest: Family members are prohibited from getting married in California. This includes parents and children, siblings, half-siblings, and aunts or uncles and nieces and nephews. In fact, California law states that marriages are void for spouses who are ancestors and descendants of every degree. If you and your spouse were related in any way, your marriage is considered to be void from the start.
- Invalid Paperwork: in order to get married in California, spouses are legally required to complete certain paperwork and obtain a marriage license. Failure to strictly adhere to state procedures can result in a marriage that is void.
There are other marriages that, while not necessarily void from the start, can be declared to be void because of extenuating circumstances.
If a marriage is entered into under fraudulent pretenses, a spouse can file a petition to have the union annulled. However, if, after becoming aware of the fraudulent marriage, you continue to live with your spouse, the marriage cannot be voided.
If you or your spouse have a mental incapacity, and are unable to understand the purpose and obligations of marriage, a court can void your union.
Spouses must enjoy the right to consummate their marriage. If a spouse suffers from a permanent physical inability to have sex, the marriage can be voided by a court.
In California, spouses must be at least 18 years old or have legal consent to get married. A marriage can be voided if a spouse, prior to turning 18, files a petition for nullity with the court. However, continuing to live with your spouse after turning 18 can make your marriage permanent and not voidable.
Force or Duress
If a marriage is obtained by force or threats, a spouse can ask for the union to be voided. A spouse seeking an annulment must be able to provide proof of the coercion.
How Can I Get an Annulment in Los Angeles?
In order to get an annulment, you first must be able to prove that your marriage is void or voidable. Once you have established that your marriage qualifies for an annulment, you must file a petition for nullity with the state.
Is There a Residency Requirement?
Unlike a petition for divorce, there is no requirement that you file your petition for nullity in the county where you reside. In fact, there is no residency requirement for filing a petition for nullity, at all. You must simply live in California to file in California.
Petition for Nullity of Marriage
The form you must file to request an annulment is actually the same form that is filed when you request a divorce or separation: Form FL-100. When you complete this form, you will be required to provide the following information:
- Your name and your spouse’s name
- Date and location of your marriage
- Children affected by the legal proceeding, and
- Grounds for requesting an annulment.
In addition to Form FL-100, you will also be required to complete a summons (FL-110) and declaration (MC-030). Here, you must provide information, evidence, and proof to support your request for an annulment. In order to make sure that your declaration properly addresses all relevant legal issues, it can be beneficial to hire an experienced family law attorney to assist you. Failing to complete the petition, summons, and declaration properly can prevent you from securing an annulment.
Serve Your Spouse
You must file copies of your petition, summons, and declaration with the court and also serve your spouse. Your spouse must also receive a blank copy of Form FL-120 (blank response) and relevant child custody documents.
You cannot serve your spouse yourself; a friend, family member, or law enforcement officer must present the legal documents to your spouse on your behalf. If your spouse agrees, you also have the option of sending the documents by mail.
Submit Proof of Service
The court will not consider your petition for annulment until it receives proof that your spouse has been served with a copy of all required paperwork. The person who served the documents must complete and sign Form FL-115 (proof of service) and be able to articulate how service was completed.
Once the court has received notice of service, you can set a date for your annulment hearing. At the hearing, you (and your spouse) must present your argument to a judge. The spouse asking for the annulment has the burden of proof. This means that you must be able to prove to a judge that your marriage should be annulled. Your spouse has the right to present any arguments or evidence to rebut your claims. If the judge believes that your marriage is void or voidable, he or she will authorize the annulment.
Statute of Limitations for Annulments
While spouses can file for divorce regardless of how long they’ve been married, filing for an annulment may have a time limit or statute of limitations in California. The statute of limitations for annulment varies depending on the grounds under which you wish to file. A Los Angeles annulment attorney can help you determine if you are within the state’s statute of limitations according to your grounds. Most grounds for annulment have a 4-year statute of limitations but when the time clock begins may be different. For example:
- Both the grounds of force and incurable incapacity have a four-year statute of limitations that begins on the date of the marriage unless one or both parties were under the age of 18 at the time of the marriage, in which case, the clock begins ticking on the date the underage spouse turns 18
- No statute of limitations exists for filing for annulment on the ground of unsound mind or an existing prior marriage
Speak to your annulment attorney if you have questions about if and how the state’s statutes of limitations apply in your case.
Steps to Take to File for an Annulment
Though an annulment is different from a divorce in that it results in a marriage that never legally existed, the process is similar to that of a divorce in that your attorney will walk you through the following steps:
- Filing documents and paying filing fees
- Providing information about the marriage and the ground for your annulment
- Notify the court if you have children
- Serving paper to your spouse
- Completing any additional forms
- Submit your forms
- Attend a hearing and present proof of your grounds for annulment
After the hearing, if the judge approved your petition it’s as though the marriage never occurred. If you have children, you may need to file proof of paternity in order to form an agreement for custody, visitation, and child support.
Contact an Experienced Los Angeles Annulment Attorney
If you believe that your marriage qualifies for an annulment, contact the experienced Los Angeles annulment lawyers at Fernandez & Karney. We have over 50 years of combined legal experience and can help you successfully secure an annulment. The process can become complicated, especially if your spouse contests the petition, so it is important to have the assistance of qualified legal counsel.
Call us today to set up a free consultation and learn more about getting your marriage annulled in Los Angeles.