The Difference Between Annulment & Divorce in California

Taking off ring

When English ruler Henry VIII left his wife for noblewoman Anne Boleyn, it became one of the most infamous and controversial divorces in history. However, this famous split was technically not a divorce at all: It was an annulment. Although the modern American legal system bears little resemblance to Tudor England, divorce and annulment are still considered distinct legal concepts.

At Bez Law Firm, P.C., we sometimes hear these terms used interchangeably, often by clients who hope annulment will provide them with a more cost-effective and immediate solution to marriage woes. But in the state of California, these terms have dramatically different requirements under the law, and not everyone is eligible to annul their marriage.


An annulment can immediately dissolve a marriage or domestic partnership without the need for divorce proceedings – as long as the relationship failed to meet the legal definition of marriage. Couples in legally-binding marriages must file for a divorce instead, where a family court will help to mediate issues like child custody, spousal or child support, and division of property.

Here are some scenarios where you may be eligible for annulment rather than divorce:

  • Your partner coerced or tricked you into marriage.
  • You were in an altered state of mind or otherwise unable to consent to marriage.
  • You were a minor at the time of your marriage.
  • You and your partner are closely related by blood.
  • Your partner was already in a valid marriage when you got married.

Although annulments tend to be quicker than divorces, they are not free from pitfalls, and they are also not just an alternative to divorce proceedings. In fact, annulment cases can often be more complex than traditional divorces, as there are fewer tried-and-true avenues for resolving common marital issues. For some couples, especially those with children, divorce may be a better option even if your marriage was unlawful.

No matter what your unique circumstances may be, you will need to have an experienced attorney at your side to protect your rights, and to help you navigate either the annulment or divorce process. With years of experience helping families in Placer and Sacramento County, our attorneys at Bez Law Firm, P.C. can give you the compassionate counsel you need during this difficult time.

Contact us at (916) 512-8944 for a consultation on whether you qualify for annulment or divorce.

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