Not all marriages are fully legal in the eyes of the law, and there are also certain circumstances that may give you cause to seek a marriage annulment. Having your marriage annulled is notably different than going through a divorce because once an annulment takes place, it is as if your marriage never happened in the first place. In other words, while a divorce ends a formal, legally recognized marriage, an annulment is essentially a declaration that a marriage was never legally valid from the start.
Whether you should be able to move forward with annulling a marriage in California is going to depend on a number of factors.
Legal grounds for annulling a marriage
Before you are able to figure out whether you have grounds for annulling your marriage, you need to determine whether the union was legally valid in the first place. There are certain circumstances that would make your marriage invalid from the outset. If, for example, you married a close blood relative, your marriage would not be legally valid because it would be incestuous in the eyes of the law. Similarly, if you married someone who was already married or involved in a domestic partnership with someone else, your marriage again would not be legal from the start.
Additional factors that could invalidate a marriage
Depending on circumstances, you may also be able to go through with an annulment if you were not yet 18 when you entered into a marriage or domestic partnership. You may, too, be able to do so if you were already involved in a marriage or domestic partnership, but your spouse from that marriage has been missing for at least five years and could potentially have passed.
If you or your spouse lacked the mental or physical capacity to enter into a marriage when you did so, this, too, could potentially be grounds for an annulment. Similarly, if force or fraud played a role in your decision to marry, this could also potentially invalidate your marriage.
If any of the above circumstances describe your marital union, you may have a legal basis to move forward with an annulment.