Legal reasons a judge can annul a marriage

A judge can only annul a marriage if you can show that there was something legally wrong with your marriage from the start. Even if you and your spouse agree you both want an annulment, you still need to prove to the judge there's a legal reason your marriage wasn't valid from the start. 

Legal reasons a judge can annul your marriage

Some marriages are never legal in California

These are called void marriages. If your marriage is void, the judge can annul your marriage. A marriage is void if it's based on

  • Incest- marriages between close blood relatives (like parent-child, siblings, aunt or uncle and niece or nephew)
  • Bigamy - marriages where one of the spouses is already married to someone else 
If you thought your former spouse was dead or they’d been missing for at least 5 years (and you didn’t know they were alive), then it's not considered bigamy for you to have married again. Your new marriage isn't automatically illegal or void. But, you can still ask the judge to annul the second marriage if it turns out your former spouse is actually alive. If your former spouse is actually alive, they too (your former spouse) can also ask to annul your marriage.

In other cases, a judge can decide a marriage isn't legal

These are called voidable marriages. For some of these reasons, you must file a request for an annulment in certain amount of time (usually 4 years).

If you were under 18 at the time of your marriage and didn't have a judge's permission to marry, you can ask for an annulment within 4 years of your 18th birthday. 

If the other person lied to you or kept something from you in order to get you to marry them (and had you known the truth you would not have married them), you can ask for an annulment within 4 years of finding out about the fraud.

The fraud must be very serious and be about something that goes to the heart of your marriage. For example, marrying only to get a green card or hiding the fact you can't have children. And, you must show that if you had known the truth, you would not have gotten married.

If during the marriage ceremony, you didn't understand what was happening - that you were officially marrying and what marriage would mean - you (or a conservator) can ask a judge to annul the marriage. If you later came to understand that you married and decide to keep living as a married couple, you may not be able to use this reason.

One of you is physically unable to have sex and it can't be fixed. This does not mean inability to have children. You must file a request within 4 years of the marriage.

If when you married one of you was still married to someone that was either

  • Absent for at least 5 years (and not known to be alive)
  • Generally thought to be dead

You can ask for an annulment if that person turns out to be alive.

You must file a request within 4 years of marriage.

This page only has basic information about each of these reasons. 

Even if one of these reasons doesn't exist, there are other reasons a judge could annul a marriage. Talk to a lawyer or Self-Help Center staff to find out more about what you need to prove for these or other reasons.
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