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When can you get an annulment?

An annulment is a way of ending a marriage, similar to a divorce. However, unlike a divorce where you must wait up to one year before you can apply, you can apply for an annulment at any time after the wedding. It is important to note that if you apply for an annulment many years after the wedding, you may be asked to explain why there has been a delay in applying.

If you are considering annulling your marriage, it is important that you understand the grounds for annulment, the cost and what the process involves before making a decision. A legal advisor can help you with this process.

Grounds for annulment

In order to apply for an annulment, you or your spouse must have either:

  • Lived in England or Wales for at least one year
  • Held a permanent residence in England or Wales for at least six months

Some people may seek an annulment if there are religious reasons why they cannot or do not want to apply for divorce. However, you must show that the marriage was either not valid (void) or defective (voidable) for one of the reasons below.

Void marriages

A ‘void’ marriage is a marriage that is considered to have never been legally valid in the first place because:

  • You and your partner are closely related
  • One or both of you were under 16
  • One of you was already married or in a civil partnership

In these cases, the law says that the marriage never existed so there is no need to apply for a formal decree to annul it. However, you or your partner may wish to seek official documents in order to obtain things like a financial order or to remarry in the future.

Voidable marriages

If your marriage was ‘defective’ it is considered ‘voidable’ if:

  • It was not consummated
  • You did not consent to the marriage (e.g. you were forced into it or you were intoxicated)
  • The other person had a sexually transmitted disease at the time of the marriage
  • The woman was pregnant by another man at the time of the marriage

If your marriage is voidable, then you must apply to the court for an annulment.

Getting an annulment

In order to annul a marriage, you must fill in a nullity petition form at a cost of £550, which you can do at any time after the marriage. You must also fill in an accompanying statement confirming that what you have said in your nullity petition is true. A solicitor will be able to assist you with these forms. Then two copies will need to be sent to your nearest divorce court for consideration and one copy should be kept for yourself.

Once the petition has been filed, your spouse must respond within eight days, either accepting or disputing the annulment. If they accept the annulment, then you can apply for a ‘decree nisi’ which is an official document that confirms that the court does not see any reason why the marriage cannot be annulled. If they dispute the petition, then you may need to attend court to make your case to a judge.

Six weeks after receiving the decree nisi, you can apply for a decree absolute, sometimes called a ‘decree of nullity’. This is the final legal document that says your marriage has been annulled and will be needed should you wish to remarry in the future.

The whole annulment process can take around six to eight months if it is uncontested. Contested cases may take longer and will require expert legal advice. It may be useful to seek mediation to avoid any lengthy and costly court disputes.

Get legal advice about an annulment

If you are considering annulling your marriage, Crisp & Co’s Marriage Annulment Solicitors have the experience and the expertise to find the best option for you and your family. We are specialists in non-confrontational family law and many of our team are members of Resolution – a group of family lawyers committed to removing conflict from family law. Our goal is to help you manage your family law issues in a way that protects your best interests and saves you time and money. Get in touch with our team today by calling 020 3281 7889 or send us your queries using the form below.

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