Johnston v. Johnston
18 Cal.App.4th 499 (1993)

Facts:

  • After a 20-month marriage W sought to have her marriage to H annulled.
  • H agreed the marriage should be terminated but requested a termination of dissolution (divorce) be entered.
    • Annulment basically means the marriage never existed.
  • W’s allegations were that husband was lazy, unemployed, a heavy drinker (which she only found out after marriage), unattractive and dirty.
  • She wanted an annulment because she deeded property to the marriage. If dissolution, then he would be entitled to half. If annulment, that transfer is void.

History:
The trial court entered a judgment of annulment, finding the wife’s consent had been fraudulently obtained.

Issue:
Whether consent to marriage was obtained by fraud.

Holding:
No. Reversed.

Reasoning:

  • “Even if Brenda’s testimony was believed by the trial court, she presented insufficient grounds for an annulment. The concealment of incontinence, temper, idleness, extravagance, coldness or fortune inadequate to representations cannot be the basis for an annulment.”
  • Wasn’t fraud, it was puffery!
  • Note: Most courts have required a stronger showing of fraud to void a marriage contract than to void other contracts – so fundamental, dealing with children, etc.

Rule: Fraud must go to the very essence of the marital relation before it is sufficient for an annulment.