Marriages sometimes simply do not work out. Yet, because marriage is a binding contract between you, your spouse and the state, ending it can be difficult. While divorce is exceedingly more common, you may be able to dissolve your union with an annulment.

Divorce is often a costly and time-consuming process. While annulments tend to be both speedier and cheaper, they are not available to every divorcing couple. On the contrary, you must prove you meet one of the following criteria to qualify:

  1. Close blood relationship 

In California, first cousins can marry one another. If the blood relationship is closer than that, however, the marriage is not legally valid. Therefore, if you are in this type of union, you likely do not need an annulment.

  1. Pre-existing marriage 

You may only have one spouse at any given time. The same is true for your husband or wife. If you end up marrying someone who already has a spouse, you can request an annulment anytime during your spouse’s life.

  1. Age

California does not set a minimum age for marriage. If you were under the age of 18 when you walked down the aisle, though, you can likely pursue an annulment. To do so, you must file your request within four years of your 18th birthday.

  1. Fraud or force 

Annulment is possible if someone uses deceit or force to induce marriage. For these grounds, you have four years to file an annulment petition.

  1. Physical or mental incapacity 

If you married a person who has an incurable physical condition that prohibits intimate relations, you can request an annulment for up to four years after the marriage date. Similarly, if you or your spouse lacked the mental capacity to understand the full effect of marriage, you may also pursue an annulment during this time frame.

While there are a variety of reasons to divorce a spouse, some are sufficient to secure an annulment. Nonetheless, you likely do not have forever to act. By understanding both the grounds and the time constraints for annulments, you can make the right choice.