People often wonder the difference between annulment of marriage and dissolution of marriage, also known as a divorce. There are pros and cons of each, so it’s important to understand the differences. It’s also important to understand that the majority of married couples do not qualify for an annulment. If you do not qualify for an annulment, the only way to legally end your marriage is through a dissolution of marriage. A couple who can qualify for an annulment may still choose to get a divorce, or vice-versa.
Annulment and dissolution are both legal mechanisms through which to end your marriage. The distinction between the two begins in looking at how each treat the underlying marriage. An annulment ends a marriage that is void or voidable, meaning invalid from the start. A dissolution or divorce ends a legally valid marriage.
When is a marriage void?
A marriage is void when it was never legally valid. This is true in cases of incestuous or bigamy. An incestuous marriage is when the people who are married are close blood relatives. A bigamous marriage is when a spouse is already legally married to someone else.
When is a marriage voidable?
A marriage is voidable when it could be legally valid, if not for a person contesting its legitimacy. A marriage can be declared invalid because of age at the time of marriage, a prior existing marriage, unsound mind of either party, fraud, force, or physical incapacity.
Marriage not void or voidable
If your marriage is not void or voidable as described above, you do not qualify for an annulment and will need a dissolution to dissolve your marriage. California is a no-fault state; therefore, you do not need a specific reason to justify your request for divorce. The most common grounds cited by parties is that of irreconcilable differences.
How long do I have to request an annulment or divorce?
There is no time limit, or statute of limitations, to request a divorce. There is, however, a statute of limitations to request annulment of a voidable marriage. Once the statue of limitations has run, you can no longer request an annulment. The statute of limitations are as follows:
- Age at the time of marriage: The person who married while under 18 must file for annulment within 4 years after reaching 18. A parent or guardian of the minor can ask for an annulment while the minor is still under 18.
- Prior existing marriage: An annulment in this case can be filed by either party as long as both parties to the current marriage are alive, or by the prior existing spouse.
- Unsound mind: An annulment in this case can be filed by the party claiming that his or her spouse is of unsound mind, or by a relative or conservator of the party of unsound mind, at any time before the death of either party.
- Fraud: An annulment on grounds of fraud can only be filed by the person who was deceived. It must be filed within 4 years of discovering the fraud.
- Force: An annulment on grounds of force can only be filed by the person who was forced to give consent. It must be filed within 4 years of getting married.
- Physical incapacity: An annulment in this case can be filed by the party claiming that his or her spouse or domestic partner is physically incapacitated. It must be filed within 4 years of getting married.
Seek legal help before filing for annulment or divorce
There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to file for annulment or divorce. Contact a divorce lawyer relies on to help you weigh all the factors and make the best choice for you.