Divorce, Legal Separation and Annulment

Detailed Law

Divorce, Legal Separation and Annulment

I always have clients asking me the following questions:  Can I get an annulment?  And, what is the difference between a Legal Separation and Divorce.


Well, first not everyone qualifies for an annulment.  An annulment is a legal process to wipe out the marriage as if it never happened.  The marriage license becomes void/annulled.  The way to get an annulment as opposed to a divorce is to prove that the marriage was never valid to begin with.

The following are some ways you can get annuled:

Already Married/Bigamy:

one party could have still been married to another individual as the divorce from that individual never went through.  This would make the marriage to the second person invalid.

Mental Incapacitation

Or, if there is a form of mental incapacitation.   Were the parties overly intoxicated?  Maybe got hitched on a wild night out in Las Vegas?  Were they on drugs or substances that would render them unable to make decisions for themselves? You can obtain an annulment on these grounds.


Also, if there was some sort of fraud involved.  Did a person trick you into getting married?  This can happen.  These are just some common circumstances.  Others, are if a party is physically unable to consummate a marriage- you can reach an annulment. Bigamy and Incest are others.

Some people who are seeking a divorce would rather have an annulment but they do not qualify.  You would actually have to prove the court that an annulment is based on one of these factors.


A divorce can be based on any reason.  A simple “irreconcilable differences” is what most people usually base their divorce on.  Since California is a no-fault state it does not matter who was to blame for the divorce.  California courts have a “checks and balances” type attitude with divorce.  Other than child custody and child support, its main focus is to take all the assets and debts and split it.  Plain and simple.  Most clients think that a myriad of facts are involved.  Most of these facts do not matter.  All that matters is whether the property is community property or separate property and then to proceed to divide the funds accordingly.

Legal Separation: 

A legal separation is primarily used for parties who do not want to get divorced.  They might get back together but they would like to determine their assets and debts.  A legal separation is not final.  You are not divorced and you are not free to remarry. A lot of people file for legal separation to maintain health insurance for the other party.  This seems to be the only reason people seek a legal separation rather than a divorce.  With a legal seperation you can dismiss the filing at any time and continue to be married.  With a divorce you would have to re-marry that individual.

These there areas are very distinct.  Most people obtain a divorce.  But if an annulment or legal separation is right for you.  You should contact an attorney.

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