When to File An Annulment and Not a Divorce

Divorce Graphic

Divorce and annulment might seem to be interchangeable terms to some of us. Although you might think that the result is the same, a married couple ends up not being married to each, they are two distinct and very different types of court actions.

Divorce or Annulment – Is there a difference?

When married couples get divorced, the marriage was terminated by court order. An annulment creates a very different situation.

An annulment proceeding does not ask a court to terminate a marriage. If you ask a Santa Ana court for an annulment, you are asking for a court order declaring the marriage to be null and void under state law. In effect, the granting of an annulment means that you were never legally married to each other.

Grounds for an annulment

Just as with a divorce action, you must have grounds under California law to justify an annulment. The law allows you to waive ending a marriage through an annulment simply by not filing a request for one.

Those grounds include:

  • A party being under the legal age to marry. The legal age to marry in the state as of July 2015 is 18.
  • Fraud by one of the parties that goes to the heart of the marital relationship. Fraud requires proof that the innocent party would not have entered into the marriage except for the fraud.
  • Consent to marriage was obtained from one of the parties through the use of force.
  • One of the parties withholding from the other the fact that he or she was physically incapable of consummating the marital relationship.

Judge's hand holding a gavelThere are two other grounds for an annulment that cannot be waived. If you enter into a bigamous or incestuous relationship, any attempted marriage is void. To file for an annulment is a mere formality because the marriage is void under California law even before you file with the court.


Would you like to know more about divorce and annulment, please contact The Law Offices of William M. Strachan at (714) 841-1931 or visit his website.