Ask the Attorney - Topic: Nullity of Marriage (Annulment)


An alternative to an actual divorce is to ask the Court for a Nullity of Marriage. A nullity proceeding is brought to obtain a court order that determines no valid marriage ever existed. Britney Spears is a person that used this proceeding to get her marriage voided.

QUESTION: Dear Attorney Cheng, my daughter recently got married and like her husband she realized that her marriage was a mistake. I think that divorce would ruin her reputation. Is there a way get a divorce that can wipe out her marriage?

ANSWER: Many of our high profile business clients have this problem. They get into a situation and then want to get out of it without record. One must understand that divorce is a public process. However, one way to determine that no marriage even existed is a nullity proceeding.

There are two types of nullities. Void marriages are considered null at the inception. The two categories are marriages between family members or a marriage that occurs when the previous marriage was not severed.

The other types of marriages are null based upon the determination of the Court. They include:

1) marriage with a minor

2) a former spouse, previously thought dead, comes back

3) an unsound mind

4) consent by fraud

5) consent by force

6) physical incapacity

Many attorneys attempt to get a nullity by categories three and four. An unsound mind occurs when a person’s comprehension was so low that the person was unable to understand the subject matter of the marriage. One problem with category three is that it must be used quickly. The law states that as soon as a person wakes up from their misunderstanding, if they continue as husband and wife, a nullity may not be allowed.

Fraud occurs when misrepresentation goes to the very essence of the relationship. The great thing about category four is that it allows for a longer period to bring the proceeding before the Court. Fraud has been applied to various cases such as 1) concealment of being sterile 2) concealed intent not to live together 3) where husband lied about no criminal past, and 4) where a person solely got married for purposes of green card.


Ask the Attorney is a weekly column provided by the Law Offices of Paul P. Cheng. This column should not be a substitute for legal advice. The statements herein are the opinions of Attorney Cheng only and do not create an attorney-client relationship. You must find your own attorney for your legal issue. Some names and events are changed to protect those that submit questions. To submit questions, contact Paul P. Cheng at 626-356-8880, email: Contact@PaulChengLaw.Com, or contact Chinese Daily News.

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