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An annulment in San Diego occurs when a judge states in a court order that your marriage or domestic partnership is legally invalid. Annulment is distinct from a divorce in the sense that divorce terminates a valid, existing marriage, while annulment merely declares that what was believed to be a marriage was never a marriage at all. From a legal standpoint, an annulled marriage is considered to have never existed.

Although many San Diego couples going through a divorce admit they wish they had never tied the knot, it doesn’t become a legal basis to file for an annulment. Certain unique circumstances must be present to warrant an annulment and the party seeking annulment should be able to prove this beyond a reasonable doubt before the court.

No matter what might be your reasons for seeking an annulment and not a divorce, you must meet the state’s stringent legal standards. It’s prudent to consult an experienced San Diego lawyer to discuss your legal options before you set out to pursue this path.

At Moshtael Family Law, we recognize that most couples find annulment to be a confusing issue because of the legal intricacies involved. But this is where our legal expertise in family law comes in. Our San Diego annulment attorneys have years of experience and in-depth legal knowledge to address any questions you may have regarding the annulment process and help you in achieving your goals.

Grounds for Seeking an Annulment in San Diego

There are certain unique circumstances in which a couple can file for annulment in San Diego, such as cases of bigamy, where a person has married multiple people, or incest, where the couple is related by blood. If these cases become known, San Diego family law courts will annul the contracts automatically, even if all parties consented to the marriage.

Excluding cases of incest and intentional bigamy, you will have to provide at least one of the following valid reasons:

  • Age - If one of the persons in the marriage was below the age of 18, when they got married, they could get the marriage annulled.
  • Prior Existing Marriage - If it is found after the marriage that either of the parties continued to be a domestic partnership or legal marriage with someone else, the subsequent marriage will be annulled.
  • Fraud - If one party claims that the other person deceived them in some way, they can file for an annulment. A person misrepresenting financial status/employment, marrying to obtain a green card or claiming to be someone else are all examples of fraud.
  • Force - Coercing or compelling someone into marriage is not legal and can culminate in an annulment. Some examples of force include threatening the spouse, kids or family members.
  • Unsound Mind - Like all contracts, both parties entering into a marriage contract, need to be of sound mind. It means they should be competent enough to make a sound legal decision. The marriage can be annulled, if it can be proved that one of the persons was of unsound mind when the marriage took place.
  • Physical Incapacity - If one party is incapable of consummating the marriage, and the condition continues and appears incurable, it becomes grounds for annulment.

Statute of Limitations for a San Diego Annulment

In addition, it’s crucial to remember there is a statute of limitations for annulments in San Diego. It means you can file for a marriage annulment within a limited timeframe from the marriage date. The deadline will vary depending on the annulment reason, including:

  • If you were below 18 years of age when you married and you are filing and annulment on these grounds, the statute of limitation is four years after you turn 18.
  • If bigamy is the grounds for filing an annulment, you/your spouse can file until the time the spouse from the previous marriage is still alive.
  • If "unsound mind," is the basis for filing an annulment, you can do so any time (there is no time limit). The sick person’s conservator or relative can also file for an annulment of marriage on their behalf.
  • If the reason to file for annulment is fraud, you have a timeframe of four years from the time you discovered the fraud had occurred.
  • If you are seeking annulment because you were coerced into consenting to marriage, you have four years from your marriage date to file.
  • If physical incapacity is the reason you are filing for annulment, you have four years from the date of marriage to do so.

Ensure you have a reliable lawyer in your corner if you plan to file for an annulment. You shouldn’t attempt to deal with the intricate legal procedures associated with such cases without solid legal counsel.

Given the stringent legal statutes of limitations and the significant financial and custody implications accompanying an annulment, it is crucial to consult an attorney before taking any action.

What is the Process of Getting an Annulment in San Diego?

The divorce and annulment in San Diego processes are similar. You would have to complete a petition and serve the request on your spouse. You must also file the documents, pay court costs, attend a hearing, and wait for the court’s decision.

Steps to Getting an Annulment in San Diego

Signing the petition

To start the annulment process in San Diego, you must first complete Form FL-100, the same form used in divorce cases, making it necessary to check the “nullify” box in it.

Declarations for annulment

You will have to provide various pieces of information about the marriage that needs to be annulled, such as:

  • Names of both the spouses
  • The date of the marriage
  • The grounds/reasons which you are basing your annulment petition
  • Any additional relevant information you believe may be helpful in persuading the judge to grant your petition

If you have any kids from the marriage that you are attempting to annul, you must include this information in the declaration of annulment.

Serve your Spouse

You will also need to serve your spouse with the petition copy formally. If you have engaged the services of a San Diego lawyer, they will do the needful. Based on this, if you are not working with a lawyer and are serving the petition copy to your spouse yourself, you must get proof of its delivery. When seeking an annulment, it's best to work with an experienced family law attorney; they will ensure that all the due processes are followed.

Complete Additional Paperwork

Because local jurisdictions may need some additional paperwork or forms, you should check this aspect with them. If you have children from the marriage you seek to annul, you must complete and submit the Declaration Under Uniform Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.

File with the Clerk

The next step involves submitting your petition for review. You must file it with the county clerk and pay all the required filing fees.

Attend a hearing

Provide reasons for your annulment request, as it offers an opportunity to elaborate on the statement included in your initial petition and allows your spouse to raise objections.

San Diego Annulments Involve the Burden of Proof

The burden of proof rests with the spouse seeking the annulment in San Diego. If you're seeking the annulment, you'll have to prove to the court that your union qualifies for it by providing proof to back up your claims. If you want your marriage annulled because you were underage, you'll need evidence, such as your birth certificate, indicating you weren't 18 when you tied the knot.

If you're seeking to annul your marriage on the grounds that you were of unsound mind (likely because you were inebriated when you got married), you'll need to prove that you were in no condition to comprehend the consequences of your actions. In this situation, it would be helpful to have a witness who can attest to your state of drunkenness.

Annulment vs. Divorce: What are the Pros and Cons?

As a San Diego annulment renders a marriage null and void, assessing whether annulling your marriage could have specific repercussions in your particular situation is essential. Divorced spouses are entitled to certain rights that individuals who have their marriage annulled are not, as an annulment confirms that the marriage was never legally valid.

With few exceptions, the legal rights of divorced spouses, such as community property rights, spousal maintenance, and pension benefits, are not typically applied in annulment cases. Based on the specific circumstances of your case, this could be advantageous in obtaining an annulment rather than a divorce. An annulment will also invalidate any prenuptial agreement (prenup) established in anticipation of a divorce.

Evaluating the overall costs associated with annulment versus divorce is vital when deciding how to dissolve a marriage. An annulment can be less expensive than a divorce since there are often fewer legal issues to address. Yet, if the grounds for requesting an annulment are contested or challenging to prove, costs such as investigator fees, legal costs, and expert witness fees can quickly pile up.

Sometimes, a divorce based on fundamental disagreements, which does not need proof of wrongdoing, may be more cost-effective than an annulment. This is especially true if you and your spouse had previously agreed upon custody arrangements, child support, and property allocation.

A crucial distinction between the divorce and annulment procedures in San Diego is the absence of a residency requirement or waiting time for the latter. Unlike divorce, annulment permits the quick termination of a marriage.

In San Diego, Can I File for the Annulment but also File for Dissolution of Marriage?

Yes, depending on the circumstances, we may recommend that litigants consider filing for both annulment and divorce (in case the judge denies the annulment claim.) This is known as “pleading in the alternative,” and can be done by providing the necessary information for both dissolution and annulment on the Petition form.

By pleading in the alternative for both annulment and divorce, you can pursue both options during the trial and indicate that you are primarily seeking an annulment, but you are also requesting a divorce if the court doesn’t grant an annulment.

What is a “Putative Spouse” and is that Important in Annulment Cases in San Diego?

A putative spouse is one who enters into a marriage genuinely believing that the contract is valid. To recognize putative spouse status, the court must confirm that both parties met all the requirements, such as undergoing a proper marriage ceremony and obtaining a valid marriage license.

The legal concept of putative spouse status is crucial in annulment proceedings as it safeguards the “innocent” party’s rights in cases where the marriage is deemed null/invalid. In cases such as these, the judge may issue orders related to community property division, spousal support, and child custody. Pertaining to this, the person responsible for the invalidity of that marriage cannot legally seek putative spouse status.

What Happens After an Annulment in San Diego?

If the judge denies your petition for marriage annulment, you have two options:

  • You can amend the petition to rectify the information resulting in the denial; or
  • Alter the form and petition for a divorce.

If the judge approves your annulment, the state no longer legally recognizes your marriage. It is as though you were never married to your ex-spouse, and the state will remove all information regarding your marriage from their record(s). Before you file for an annulment, you must assess and understand all the implications for you, your spouse, and any kids you may have from the marriage.


A strong presumption of paternity exists in California. It facilitates the passage from being a married couple with children to becoming a single parent. Paternity is usually determined outside of the marriage if a man fathers a child during a marriage that is later annulled. Nevertheless, it might be best to legally declare the former spouse as the father of the child, as it helps establish visitation, custody, and support agreements.

Property Division

Regarding property division, San Diego follows the community property system, which considers any property acquired during the marriage as belonging to both spouses. As an annulment nullifies the marriage, the spouses need to take individual ownership of any community property. Former spouses designated as beneficiaries for spousal support or spousal survivor benefits will forgo those entitlements upon the annulment of the marriage.

Our Diligent Annulment Lawyers in San Diego are Ready to Represent You

Proving before a court that you have solid grounds for an annulment might be tricky. It’s essential to seek the counsel of a knowledgeable annulment attorney in San Diego who can help you navigate the system and understand your legal rights and obligations.

At Moshtael Family Law, we have a combined expertise of over 185 years of successfully handling a wide range of family law cases in San Diego. We recognize that the annulment procedure can be challenging and stressful, particularly if your spouse disputes the petition. Our dedicated attorneys will provide aggressive and focused courtroom advocacy to help you obtain the desired results.

Let us help you move forward in life with success, confidence, and peace of mind. To schedule your free, no-obligations consultation, contact us online today or call us at 619-639-9898.

Please call or contact our office online to arrange for an appointment about your case today.

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