Choice of Divorce or Annulment May Hinge on Validity of Marriage

Q My grandson was married in May, 1986, to a young lady in Santa Ana. At the time, he was stationed in Germany, and was home on leave for a week from the Army.

In October, 1986, he was transferred from Germany to New York. He was so excited, he called his bride from New York to tell her he was going to be stationed there for one year and would look for an apartment for them. His bride told him that she no longer wanted to be married to him after one week of being together.

My grandson is out of the service now. He hasn’t seen his wife since 1986. My question is what is an annulment, and how is it different from a divorce?




A: A divorce, or dissolution as it is called in California, is generally used to terminate a valid marriage for reasons arising after the marriage. An annulment is generally used in cases in which a valid marriage does not exist due to reasons present at the time of the marriage. Examples of an invalid marriage may range from lack of a proper marriage license to bigamy.

An annulment may also be used when a marriage is voidable. This means that although the marriage was defective, it will be considered valid unless one of the parties chooses to have it annulled. A common example of a voidable marriage is one involving an underage party or parties.

There are some advantages as well as disadvantages in obtaining an annulment rather than a dissolution. For example, the parties’ property rights in such things as pension and support may be affected. Your grandson should consult an attorney regarding the advisability of using an annulment proceeding.


Q My neighbors have huge trees planted on their side of the fence. They have promised me for two years that they would keep them trimmed, as they block a beautiful view and shade my vegetable garden. The trees also drop leaves on my deck. They have yet to trim them.

My neighbors and I are currently not on speaking terms over this. Help!


Laguna Hills


A: Although it appears to be a simple question, there is no simple answer. California law has generally given no direct assistance on this matter, although there have been cases which suggest that a landowner may cut off the branches of his neighbor’s tree which extend into his yard. There are, however, so many exceptions to this that an owner who does such a thing may incur liability.

A competent attorney should be able to advise you on what remedy you may have against your neighbors and their trees. I cannot advise you on the proper course to take, as that is the job of the attorney you may wish to consult.

Q When I was young and irresponsible, I got into trouble running up my credit cards. I paid some off and some of the companies “wrote me off.”

Now that I am a responsible adult, I would like to start getting credit again. When I apply for credit cards, I always get denied because they state I have these “writeoffs.” I don’t even remember which companies wrote me off.


How can I find out which companies they are?


Yorba Linda

A: You may write to a consumer credit reporting agency for a copy of your consumer credit report. This report should help you in determining the names of the companies that have given you a negative credit rating.


If you disagree with any information on the report, the law provides that you may demand in writing that those furnishing the inaccurate information act to correct it.

B. Tam Nomoto, an Orange County Municipal Court judge, answers readers’ questions about the law. Ask the Judge runs every other Saturday in Orange County Life. Got a question for Judge Nomoto? Write to: Ask the Judge, Orange County Life, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626. Questions of broadest interest will be answered in her column.