Invalid marriages do not occur often, but when they do, they can leave one or both parties in that divorce at a loss. The courts do not always recognize marriages and sometimes one spouse may assume they had a legal marriage because they were tricked into thinking so. But, what happens when one spouse assumes the marriage is valid and files for divorce? Will they receive support or divide assets? The answer will depend on several factors.
What Makes a Marriage Invalid?
A couple may find that their marriage is invalid or void if:
- The marriage was the result of bigamy. If one spouse is already married to someone else and has not legally divorced that individual or they have not passed away, they are guilty of bigamy and therefore any subsequent marriages are void.
- The marriage is a product of incest. If two individuals that are related to one another enter into marriage, the marriage is void.
- One party was underage at the time of the marriage. Regardless of how old that spouse is now, if one of the spouses was under the legal consenting age for the state of California, the marriage is invalid.
- The marriage is a sham marriage. In these instances, both parties were aware they were marrying to evade or earn something – such as avoid deportation.
- The marriage is a product of fraud. A marriage can be voided by the courts if one partner can prove that the other partner mislead them about the marriage. This can include spouses that concealed sexually transmitted diseases or lied about their identity.
- Incapacity is a factor. If a spouse is unable to consent due to mental incapacity, the courts will find the marriage null and void.
- One party wasn’t present at the time. Proxy weddings are not real weddings. For a wedding to be official, both parties must be present.
- One party was under duress. This is a very rare circumstance, but if one of the spouses was forced into the marriage, then the courts will consider that marriage void.
Void marriages are not the same as voidable marriages. Void marriages were never valid from the time they occurred and will be treated as if they never existed. Voidable marriages are those that can be annulled – meaning later treated as if they never existed.
Can You Receive Support?
In most cases, a void marriage allows both parties to go their separate ways. However, that does not mean child support will not be granted. If an invalid marriage produced children, the courts will still recognize the other party’s obligation to assist in supporting the children of that marriage.
What About Assets?
If both parties cannot agree to divide assets, in California the Marvin Agreement laws would take over. That means the spouse that was defrauded or assumed they were in a valid relationship can sue their ex in civil court for support and asset division.
Speak with an Orange County Attorney First
If you have recently found out that your marriage was invalid, you may still be entitled to asset distribution and support under California law. Contact a family law attorney at Sarieh Law Offices, ALC for a free 30-minute conversation. Get started by scheduling your appointment now at 714-542-6200 or fill out an online contact form with your questions.