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What are the grounds for annulment of a marriage?

Having your marriage annulled means showing that the marriage was never legally valid in the first place and thus having it declared void. This means that, legally, it will be as if your marriage never took place leaving you free to marry again.

There are two major advantages to having a marriage annulled, rather than going through a divorce. First, you need to wait until you have been married a year before you can get divorced, but an annulment can be carried out at any time after the marriage has taken place. Second, many people do not like the idea of getting divorced for religious reasons and annulment allows them to avoid this.

However, if you are considering having your marriage annulled, it is important to be aware that you can only do so if you meet the accepted grounds for an annulment.

Grounds for annulling a marriage

To have your marriage annulled in the UK, you will need to show either that the marriage was never legally valid and is thus ‘void’ or that the marriage is ‘defective’ and is therefore ‘voidable’.

Reasons a marriage can be void

You marriage will be considered not to have been legally valid and therefore to be ‘void’ if:

  • You and your spouse are closely related
  • Either spouse was under 16 at the time of the marriage
  • Either spouse was already married at the time of the marriage

Where one or more of these conditions apply, your marriage will be considered to have never taken place. However, it is worth having documentary evidence to prove this as this can be useful in future, for example, if you wish to get married again.

Reasons a marriage can be defective

Your marriage could be considered ‘defective’ and therefore ‘voidable’ if:

  • The marriage was never consummated i.e. you and your spouse have not had sex since the wedding (currently only available to opposite-sex couples)
  • You did not properly consent to the marriage e.g. you were drunk or coerced
  • Your spouse had a sexually transmitted disease when you got married
  • Your spouse was pregnant with someone else’s child when you married

If your marriage is considered defective, you will need to apply to a divorce court to have it annulled.

How to have your marriage annulled

To have your marriage annulled, you will need to submit a nullity petition to your local divorce court. You can do this any time after the marriage by sending two copies of a nullity petition to the local court and paying a fee of £550. It is strongly recommended to have a solicitor complete the petition for you to ensure there are not omissions or other issues that could delay the annulment.

The court will then contact your spouse and they will have eight day to respond. They can either accept the annulment, in which case it can proceed straight away, or they can contest the annulment, in which case you will need to go to court to make the case for an annulment before a judge.

If the court accepts your petition, it will issue a decree nisi stating that the court sees no legal reason why your marriage cannot be annulled. You will then need to wait six weeks before you can apply for a decree absolute (sometimes called a ‘decree of nullity’ for annulment).

Once the decree absolute is issued, your marriage has been legally annulled and you will be free to marry again.

Crisp & Co’s family lawyers in London and the South East are highly experienced in all types of separation, including annulment. If you need to end your marriage with an annulment, we can help you establish whether this is a viable option for you and guide you through the entire process of having your marriage annulled.

To book a free 1-hour consultation to discuss your options for annulment now, call 020 3281 7885 or contact your local Crisp & Co office.

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