The Effect of Invalid California Marriages

It may seem like an unlikely scenario, but a couple’s marriage can legally fail even if neither spouse wants it to. There are laws against certain types of marriages, and when one or both spouses violates California law, that marriage may disappear and be treated as if it never existed to begin with through an annulment.

Marriages that are Void Ab Initio

This Latin phrase loosely means ‘void from the beginning.’ When applied to certain marriages, it means that the marriage, no matter the circumstances, was never valid or legal and should never be treated as valid and legal. California recognizes marriages in certain circumstances are never legal or valid, such as in cases of incestuous relationships or when one spouse is already married to another partner.

Marriages that are Voidable

Marriages that are voidable are still considered to be valid until challenged or disavowed. This means that the marriage is technically legal and valid until someone says otherwise. When a court declares a marriage to be void, the effect is retroactive and the marriage is annulled. Marriages that are voidable include:

  • Underage spouse entering into marriage
  • Unknown prior existing marriage (such as in cases of mistaken death)
  • Unsound mind, incapacitated party
  • Marriage entered into on the basis of fraud
  • Marriage entered into on the threat of force
  • Marriage entered into while physically incapacitated (physically incapable of consummating a marriage and incurable)

Effects of an Annulment

What exactly does it mean when a marriage is annulled? After all, marriages under the law are only marked by a certificate recognizing a legal arrangement between two people. But with this legal arrangement, certain rights and obligations are attached under California state law. Consider three areas that are most affected by an annulment: children, property distribution and taxes.

If you and your spouse have a child during a marriage that is later voided or annulled, the legal presumption that the child who was born during the marriage is a child of both spouses does not exist. This means that a judge must establish the paternity for the child.

If you and your spouse accumulated property during your marriage, but the marriage is then voided or annulled, you and your spouse cannot rely on California’s community property laws to divide up the marital assets, as there was no marriage to begin with. Furthermore, neither spouse has a right to alimony or spousal support, nor do they have access to retirement benefits or pensions of the other spouse.

Finally, if you and your spouse filed your taxes jointly as a married couple and the marriage was later voided or annulled, chances are high that you will have to refile your taxes as individuals. You may end up owing the state of California and the federal government taxes in the form of tax breaks that you were not entitled to since you were not actually married.

Consult with a California Attorney for any Questions Regarding your Marital Status

Marriages are voided more often than many would believe. Marriages can been voided on the basis of immigration status, on the infertility of a spouse, the mental state of the spouse at the time of the marriage and number of other reasons years after the marriage was finalized. The fallout from such an action can ripple across all aspects of a person’s life. Therefore, it is important to consult with a family law attorney if you believe your marriage may be annulled. At the office of Charles D. Stark in Sonoma County, California, you can rely on our guidance based on years of experience. Contact the offices of Charles D. Stark to schedule an appointment today, 707-527-9900.

Contact Us

Sorry. This form is no longer accepting new submissions.