The most common way to dissolve a marriage in California is through divorce. While the process is not easy, California's makes it legally straightforward.
However, some people choose to go through a slightly different process known as annulment. Practically speaking, divorces and annulments are very similar under California law, but there are some significant differences.
The main difference, and for some people the most attractive feature of an annulment is that once a marriage has been dissolved through annulment, legally speaking, it is as though the marriage never happened. This is important to some people who have objections to divorce for religious or other reasons.
The other big difference is that the person seeking an annulment must provide a reason for it. California courts will grant an annulment for reasons such as insufficient age, unsound mind, fraud, coercion or physical incapacity. Marriages are never legally valid if one of the parties was married to someone else at the time, nor if the spouses are close blood relatives. A party seeking an annulment must provide one of these reasons to the court.
By contrast, people don't need to provide grounds when they seek a divorce. Because California has a no-fault divorce law, most divorcing spouses must simply agree that they have irreconcilable differences. In fact, under some circumstances, a person seeking a divorce doesn't necessarily need to get the other spouse to agree to the divorce before a court will agree to dissolve the marriage.
People who want to end their marriage should thoroughly discuss their legal options with a family law attorney. A lawyer can help them understand how the law will apply to their situation, and will work hard to bring them the best results.