In California, Divorce and Annulment are very different legal matters. Here are five main differences:

  1. The most often used legal ground for Divorce does not have to be proven but simply stated i.e. ‘irreconcilable differences’ which simply means that the parties do not get along. ‘Incurable insanity’ is also a legal ground but must be substantiated and is rarely used; the legal grounds for Annulment must be proven in court.  Examples of these are prior existing marriage/domestic partnership, fraud, force, physical incapacity, unsound mind, or marriage in which one or both parties are under 18 years of age.
  2. When a Divorce is finalized, the marriage is dissolved; when an Annulment is  finalized, it voids it as if the marriage never took place.
  3. A Divorce addresses the issues such as child custody & support, community property,  assets & debts, spousal support etc in order to be finalized; an Annulment when approved, in most cases, does not address issues–if there are children the party would need to establish paternity first. Further, issues like community property and spousal support would not apply unless the spouse would be considered a ‘putative spouse’ i.e. he/she had a good faith belief in the validity of the marriage.
  4. A Divorce requires residency (6 months) in the state while living 3 months in the  county; an Annulment does not require the standard residency requirements
  5. A Divorce does not have a statute of limitations i.e. one can file for Divorce at any time during the marriage; for an Annulment, the usual statute of limitations is 4 years from knowledge of the incident (does not apply for grounds of prior existing marriage/domestic partnership or  ‘unsound mind’)

As you can see a Divorce and an Annulment are very different legal matters. Essentially, a person filing for Annulment must prove to a judge that the legal ground is valid. This is sometimes difficult to do. A good suggestion is to file for Divorce in the alternative just in case the judge denies the Annulment.  By doing this, you will not lose your filing fee if the Annulment is denied. Be advised, however, that if a Divorce is filed in the alternative then residency requirements will need to be met.

Legal Action Workshop offers a low flat fee for  both Annulment and Divorce. For more information, call us at 1-800-HELP-444 (1-800-435-7444) or visit our website .

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