Divorce, Separation, or Annulment: What Is Best for You?
No one goes into a marriage expecting to get a divorce, but the reality is that many marriages, for one reason or another, do not last. When spouses find that their marriage is untenable, it’s time to start pondering how and when to reach a dissolution. And while divorce is the most common approach for unhappy couples, it is not the only option.
Many people know that an annulment, also referred to as a “nullity of marriage,” is when a California court finds that your marriage is not legally valid. After an annulment, as far as the State of California is concerned, the marriage never actually existed. Obviously, this is an attractive option for couples seeking a divorce; especially for those early in their marriage; but an annulment is only an option in very specific circumstances.
An incestuous marriage—a marriage between close blood relatives, such as siblings—is never valid. The same is true for bigamous marriages, meaning that at least one spouse is already in a registered marriage (or domestic partnership) with somebody else. In both cases, an annulment will be granted immediately upon providing the court proof of the incest or bigamy.
In other cases, the court has discretion whether or not to approve an annulment. Annulment could be warranted, for example, when one spouse was under 18 at the time of the marriage. Other examples include fraud, unsound mind, the use of force, or a physical incapacity to consummate the marriage.
To get an annulment, you must prove to the court that at least one of the above reasons is valid. Under no circumstances does an annulment depend on how long you have been married, so even if you have been married for an extremely short time, under California law you will not be eligible for an annulment for duration alone.
Another option under California law is to file for a legal separation. Separation, while not final in the same way a divorce is, allows a couple to formally separate while still technically being married. It is a way for spouses to protect themselves while having the option to continue the marriage at a future date, if they both agree. Other times, it is a dry run for eventual divorce.
Some of the key things to know about a separation include:
- Neither spouse is allowed to enter into a new marriage.
- Any property acquired by one spouse after the separation belongs solely to that spouse and is not considered communal property.
- Issues regarding child custody and visitation are decided similar to a divorce during the separation process.
Whatever your particular situation, if you are thinking about getting a divorce, annulment, or legal separation, you should consult with a family law attorney who can provide neutral advice about your full array of options. At The Law Office of Thomas M. Huguenor, we have the experience and compassion to guide you through this extremely difficult time. Call us today at (858) 458-9500 to schedule a free consultation.