Annulments in California

For a lot of people, the word “annulment” makes them think about the 55-hour marriage between Britney Spears and her childhood friend, Jason Alexander that took place in Las Vegas in 2004. After drinking in Las Vegas, the pair went down to the little white wedding chapel and exchanged vows.

When Spears shared the exciting news with her family and managers, her entourage was quite upset because she didn’t have a prenuptial agreement. So, Spears listened to the advice of her mother and managers and pulled the plug on the marriage by getting an annulment.

The Las Vegas marriage was annulled on the grounds that Spears did not understand her actions because she was incapable of agreeing to the marriage. Could this annulment have worked in California? Perhaps, if the party seeking an annulment can prove they had an “unsound mind” at the time of the marriage. Meaning, if they could prove that they did not understand the nature of the marriage when they said “I do.”

If someone were under the influence of large amount of alcohol or drugs, or a combination of the two when they got married, they could ask the court for an annulment on the grounds that they had an “unsound mind” at the time.

Legal Definition of an Annulment

When the court annuls a marriage, it means it is saying that the marriage was never lawful, that it was never legally valid. Once an annulment takes place, it’s like the marriage never happened. In addition to the unsound mind reason for an annulment, a marriage can be annulled for the following reasons:

  • Incest: It’s illegal for people who are closely related to get married.
  • Bigamy: This is when a spouse is already married to someone else.
  • Under 18-years-old: It’s unlawful to get married in California unless you’re 18.
  • Prior existing marriage: If someone was married before but it’s been at least 5 years since they’ve seen their spouse they still can’t get married to another person until they dissolve the first marriage.
  • Fraud: If a marriage was based on lies or deceit (fraud), the innocent spouse can ask for an annulment. Examples of a fraudulent marriage including marrying someone just for a Green Card, or lying about their inability to have children.
  • Force: If someone was forced into a marriage, it’s grounds for an annulment.
  • Physical incapacity: If one of the parties is physically unable to consummate the relationship and that issue continues or appears to be incurable, it’s a reason for an annulment.
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