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California Annulments
Annulments in California

In California an annulment happens infrequently when the court determines that a marriage is not valid. An annulment is judicial recognition that a valid marriage never existed, and it states that the couple was never married under the law.

Certain marriages are automatically annulled under California law. For example, marriages between close blood relative and bigamous marriages are never valid.

Others can be declared void or voidable for other reasons. In order to qualify for an annulment, a petitioner must establish that his or her marriage was never valid. Bigamy, incest, and fraud are among the grounds. A marriage in which either partner is under the age of consent is grounds for an annulment. Likewise, when either person was forced or defrauded into a marriage, the court may annul the marriage. A marriage in which either person is physically or mentally incapacitated is also grounds for an annulment. However, the petitioner for an annulment can request determination commonly associated with divorce or separation proceedings.

Each partner has the right to petition for spousal support and make determinations regarding child custody, support and visitation.


In California courts may annul a marriage if:

  • the marriage is incestuous;
  • either spouse is bigamous;
  • either party was under the age of 18 years old at the time of marriage;
  • either party was of unsound mind during the declaring of the marriage or partnership;
  • either party entered into the union while committing fraud;
  • either party forced the other to enact the union;
  • either party was physically incapacitated at the time of the marriage and the condition remains incurable.

The California Family Code, 2210 et seq. describes annulments.

In California, an annulment is very rare because a couple seeking an annulment face time constraints. California does not require the couple to wait a specific amount of time before seeking an annulment; however, the state limits the amount of time after the start of a marriage for a person to seek an annulment. Time limitations vary depending on the grounds for the annulment.

Here are the time considerations in annulments:

  • Marriages under the age of consent require that a party seek an annulment within four years after he or she reaches the age of consent, which is 18. Thus persons who marry under 18 have up until the age of 22 to seek an annulment. Additionally, the parent or guardian of the person may seek an annulment for the minor at any point before the person reaches the age of consent.
  • Annulments based upon mental incapacity can be brought at any point during either spouse's life.
  • A person seeking an annulment on the basis of fraud must do so within four years of discovering it.
  • Annulments on the basis of force or physical incapacity are only granted within the four years after the start of the marriage.


A petitioner must show grounds for the annulment, and he or she must complete a petition for annulment of marriage, and file it in the California superior court and pay the filing fee (or file a request to waive court fees in the event of financial hardship. The court clerk provides a copy of the petition and a blank response-marriage form to serve on the other partner.

The petitioner must serve documents on the other party. In California, the petitioner can ask a friend over the age of 18 to hand the papers to the spouse, or pay a process server to do it, or arrange police service. The person who serves the document must sign a court form testifying that he or she served the papers and set out the details of service.

The paperwork includes disclosure forms setting out the petitioners financial information. In California, courts require two sets of disclosure forms - a preliminary disclosure early in the annulment case and a final set toward the end of the process. The petitioner may need to fill in other forms depending on the circumstances of the case, such the spouse's response and whether there are children involved.

Uncontested actions simplify the process.

The hearing in the case depends upon whether the spouse contests the action. At the hearing, the petitioner presents evidence and witnesses to establish the grounds for annulment.

The court then makes a decision based on the merits of the case.

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