Michael Spiekerman

Attorney At Law

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Nullity of Marriage


When a marriage fails many people declare that they want to get it annulled, which to them often means that a slate is wiped clean as though the marriage never happened.  Unfortunately, annulments in California may only be obtained for the specific grounds that are set forth in the Family Code.  Annulments are rarely granted, and annulment is not available even if both parties desire it, agree to it, or are willing to "stipulate" to it.   

Marriages that may be annulled are also called "void" or "voidable" marriages, and annulments are often referred to as a judgment of nullity of marriage.  Void marriages in the eyes of the law can never be valid; voidable marriages may or may not be, depending upon the later intentions and conduct of the parties.  

We see certain situations somewhat frequently where are annulments may be granted - those of so-called "bigamous" marriages where one party failed to perfect a Dissolution Judgment from a prior spouse, often because some final paper was never submitted to the court or signed by a judge (there is one circumstance where an otherwise bigamous marriage may be voidable rather than void involving spouses who are missing and believed to be dead).  Where this occurs the new marriage is not legally valid, although the law may treat it as if it were valid for purposes of determining property and support rights in favor of an innocent spouse.  Less common is the incestuous marriage.  Both bigamous and incestuous marriages are considered to be void as a matter of law.  

Marriages that may be annulled also include those that are "voidable" marriages; these marriages may be treated as valid if they are not challenged.  Grounds for marriages that may be voided if one party seeks it are set forth in Family Code section 2210, as follows:  

  • Marriages commenced where one party lacked the ability to consent, as with minors
  • Prior existing marriage where former spouse believed to be dead
  • Unsound mind
  • Fraud
  • Force
  • Physical Incapacity


The categories identified above must be carefully proven and are not nearly as extensive as they sound.  You must hire an experienced Family Law attorney if you hope to prevail on such a claim.  That attorney may tell you that your chances are slim, depending upon your particular situation and facts.  It is possible to file a Petition for Dissolution which seeks a Decree of Annulment "in the alternative."  

An important consequence of a decree of annulment is that where the marriage is deemed to have never existed, to have been wiped out so to speak, neither party has any rights under the Family Code or California matrimonial law.  This means, among other things, that no community property ever came into existence.  People whose marriages have been annulled and who hold property together have general civil remedies to the same extent of unmarried partners, but those rights are not nearly as extensive as provided to married people. 

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this or associated pages, documents, comments, answers, emails, or other communications should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information on this website is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship, nor does the receipt or viewing of this information constitute an attorney-client relationship.